Okay, lets get the kids in an uproar and tell them you are going back to school shopping already!
You can save a bundle of money by planning out your attack on all those needed supplies for school.
Always be shopping for the future!
It doesn’t matter that it is July, or August. You are going to need pencils and notebooks in September!
First of all, make a list of everything you are going to need for back to school. Start with the basics, pencils, erasers, notebooks, notebook paper, highlighters, book bags.
I suggest a grid or spreadsheet. Down the first column, on the left, use separate rows each for each of the items you think you are going to need, and your estimated price. Include how many of each item you think you will need for each student for the year. Buying in bulk may save you a few bucks in the long run.
In the columns, list each store that you have access to, or that you think might have the best deals
List columns for each of your local stores. It will be much easier to put prices in one sheet, than to go back and forth between all the circulars. Back to school shopping is a huge deal for retail. There is a lot of competition at the major chains like Walmart, Walgreens, CVS and others.
Here’s a sample… you can click it for a larger image. Just use your back button to come back.
Be sure you do YOUR homework before heading out. Oh, and if there are coupons required for the best prices you find, be sure and clip them and make a note on your sheet.
Watch the retail store circulars for “loss leaders”. A few years back, my sister (a real super shopper and staunch school supporter) found pencils for a penny each at Staples. So she bought 100 for the year to be used by the 3 kids, and another 200 to donate to the school. Her savvy shopping made a helpful donation, and still cost only $3.00 for pencils!
Open an account online with a few of the coupon sites, and check them for coupons before you shop.
Office supply stores like Staples or Office Depot often have better prices demanded by small businesses. Some have loyalty cards that will give you cash back on future purchases.
Check the dollar stores, they frequently have stationery on sale year round.
Book bags are a necessary item for students as they haul their books to and fro every day. Be sure and buy a STURDY one.. It makes no sense to buy a cheap book bag only to have to replace it later. Those books can weigh upwards of 20 – 30 lbs in total. And remember, books have corners! Don’t go “cheap” here. Check the fabric as well as the style.
If the kids need laptops for their homework, look for local computer repair shops. They usually have reconditioned laptops that work just fine. At worst case, the repair shop can help you out in a jam if the computer you do buy has issues, or they might be able to direct you to someone that does sell reconditioned machines.
(Note: If the kids are required to have laptops in the classroom, check and see what the requirements are for Hard drive, CD/DVD capabilities and platform. My nieces and nephew are now required to have Apple laptops for classwork. After successfully using PC’s for years. <sigh>)
Shop online. Use Ebay, and Craigslist to find used laptops at a bargain.
I remember when I bought my first home PC. I went to every land-based computer store within 20 miles, and got my best price. Then I looked online from work. I ordered, and saved over $600 on the exact machine I wanted, new, and it was shipped overnight for free – the day after Christmas. Of course the amount I saved is more than the average price of a laptop now – it was a while ago.
Outlet stores can be a great source of inexpensive basics such as sweaters, sweatshirts, khaki pants and chinos, hoodies, shoes and sneakers (my bad – athletic footwear). Shop early, or get caught in traffic jams. Early in the season, early in the morning. Skip weekends if you can.
If you absolutely must shop at the mall or at the larger retail stores, make a beeline for the clearance racks. You can find some great bargains there. Some are last seasons fashions – yet still good looking and wearable.
Most of the markdowns are for things as simple as a missing button, a small fixable tear, or broken zipper. .. or dust. (Yes, thats right – dust! I once bought a $600 full length cashmere topcoat for $125 because someone had dropped it, and there was grey dust along the bottom hem of the coat. Seriously. I am not kidding.)
You can also get some great brand name clothing for less at stores that handle “odd lots” For example, in my area we have Building 19, Ocean State Job Lots, and Big Lots. They are off price retailers, but they get loads of seasonal merchandise and clothing regularly.
Try bargain shopping at the thrift stores, where you will find a lot of great clothing at tiny prices. No one has to know that you got that Aeropostale sweatshirt for $5 at a thrift store. Again, shopping early is better. Don’t wait until the first week of September for this – you will be trampled by the herd!
I might even recommend taking a trip to the mall to see what the best dressed mannequins are wearing this year. Then you will have an idea what to look for that the kids might like.
Kids are pretty fashion conscious these days, and everyone wants to “fit in”. As much as we might like to shelter them from the reality of budgets, it’s good time to start bringing in the idea of how much you have to spend, and how to get the most out of it. You just might be able to head them off at the pass from pleading for that $28 t-shirt from A&F.
When I was in High School, if I wanted to choose what to wear, I bought it myself. Summer job money was saved so I could buy what I wanted. If your kids are of that age, it might be a good idea. Of course you will be helping them along the way. If they start to understand what things cost and how much work goes into buying them, they get the benefit of an economic lesson.
Got college aged kids? Read the previous post about buying text books – good stuff!