Amidst the joy of summer time swims, cold Popsicles, and sleeping in, the new school year sneaks up on us. I dread the whirlwind back to school shopping as advertisements plague the airways, and other media. I feel my wallet emptying before I even make the shopping list. Not to mention the kids exclaiming, “I want this one!”
Here are a few things I have learned to prep for back to school season. It will help save money, time, and some sanity.
Every year, we use the same basic school supplies. Most stores overstock these items. I’ve learned to wait until the end of the back to school rush, when the stores mark the items for clearance, then I stockpile crayons, ruled paper, printer paper, composition books, pencils, glue, etc.
Also, the teachers will love you in the middle of the year when they run out of some supplies. With the low cost, I never mind sharing from my stockpile.
My ongoing school supply stockpile also saves us a bit of money each year. With the savings, each child can pick out a few of their “must have” items without breaking the bank.
When picking out a back pack, I spend a little bit more money for one with a lifetime warranty. That way if it gets over filled and breaks a seam, I simply return it for a new one.
One way I save on school clothes is not to buy them only at the back to school sales. Instead I buy clothing year round. At the end of the seasons, when items are on clearance, I try to buy the next size up for the following year. This especially great for basic items like jeans, socks, undergarments, etc. (Side note on underwear: all tightie whities look the same; if you buy every male in the house a different brand, sorting laundry goes sooo much faster.)
On gift giving holidays, I buy each child a new outfit and shoes. I work it into the gift buying budget. This helps balance out the cost of clothing my ever growing brood during the year. Plus, it freshens up their wardrobe.
Skip all the driving around and shop online. Scoping out deals is a click of the mouse and most websites offer free shipping over a certain amount spent.
I highly recommend Amazon Student. I sit down at the beginning of my college semester, and put in one big order for the kids and myself. With the student discounts and Amazon Prime shipping it is a double win. (Living overseas as a military wife, Amazon Prime has been a true life saver.) Another plus: I can find all my college books used and sell them back later, or I can simply rent and return books.
While online shopping I also use MyPoints.com, a free online points system resulting in gift cards, and RetailMeNot.com. You can look up any website you are shopping at and get online coupon codes. Both of these web sites yield a good return, $5-$25 on average.
Setting a Budget
The most important part of school shopping is setting a budget. Even more important is including the kids. I sit down with them, show them how a budget works, and what our plan of attack is.
They help me compile our supply list. When it comes to the actual shopping part, I usually give them a small budget of their own to buy their wants. The catch is they do the math, and I help them make conscious decisions on quality and usefulness. The rest of the list, which is mostly basics, comes from the stockpile.
Prepping for the school year can be a tedious repetitive task. Enter the new school year fully prepared by creating a small stock pile of the basic necessities. This will save you time, money, and some sanity.