It’s that time again! Time to head back-to-school. There’s always been something about back-to-school time that I absolutely love. Starting new activities, new schedules and routines, new teachers, new friends and mostly getting back to normalcy and structure.
Going back to school always has a down side, the fortune it costs you to purchase the school supplies, uniforms, sports equipment and school fees and food. These extra expenses can really hurt your monthly budget if you are not prepared.
The incredible amount of schools supplies that are required for your children to start the new school year can become overwhelming. It can also become a financial strain as these costs stretch your budget to it’s limits.
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Luckily, retailers know this, and they offer up some absolutely amazing deals to help you save money on those back to school supplies! Back to school time is also the time of year that you can score some awesome deals on clothes, office supplies (especially paper) as well as home supplies (plastic containers, storage, ect.) and cleaning supplies. End-of-summer clearance on clothing is a personal favorite. I use these sales to stock up on warm weather clothing and summer items.
With all this talk about spending money, you’re probably wondering how to afford everything. Well, I’m here to tell YOU, that YOU can do it! It is possible to get all your kids back-to-school supplies without breaking your budget! With these tips and tricks for your back-to-school shopping you are going to be a pro at navigating all the local back-to-school sales. You are going to be armed with your inventory list, knowing exactly what to spend and where to purchase the items from for the best possible deal on each and every item.
10 Back-to-School Tips & Tricks
1. Shop on Tax Free Sales Tax Holidays
Who would have thought that some states offer Tax Free Sales Tax Holiday Weekends?! Well, they do! There are about 15 states just this year that are offering up the sales tax free weekend. On these days you are literally paying no sales tax on clothing, school supplies as well as laptops and small electronic purchases (depending on your state). Do your research to see if your state offers the Tax Free Weekend and what exactly you can expect to not pay taxes on.
Save your shopping until the tax free holiday arrives, then purchase online for additional savings. Using sites like Ebates, you can save an additional 4-8% by receiving cash back. If your not sure how Ebates works you can check my post out on How Ebates Works.
2. Inventory & Budget
One sure fire way to save on your kids back-to-school items and supplies, is to take inventory of what you already have!
Check your cabinets, office or kids art supplies to see what you may already have on hand. If you’re like me, you may be hording heaves of pens, folders, tape and glue! I’m not sure why or exactly how, but I manage to accumulate stacks of pens (Every time I go to change my purse I swear I have about 20 new pens in my bag)!
Go through all your supplies that everyone already has on hand. Check to see if the lunch box is acceptable for a few more months or maybe the school year. What about the crayons, folders, 3 ring binders, pencil box? Are they in good shape? Do they need to be replaced?
Compare what you have on hand with what the back-to-school supplies list your child was given. Evaluate and see what you really need to buy, considering what you already have on hand. Reinvent, re-purpose, re-use.
3. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is such a great way to maximize savings on certain items. Purchase bulk packages of granola bars, items for trail mix snacks and juice boxes. Keep in mind that bulk stores such as BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club also offer clothing, shoes and school supplies. This is a great way to save if you have several children to buy for.
Stock up on Ziploc bags for snack sacks. Purchase larger sizes of chips, cookies, gummy snacks, ect. and re-package them into smaller “snack size” portions using the Ziploc backs. Juice boxes, pens, paper and other office supplies are more great items to buy in bulk to maximize savings. Always take into account the price per oz. to see if it’s really a good deal or not.
Clorox wipes (disinfecting wipes), tissues and paper towels are items that seem to creep their way onto pretty much every back-to-school supply list I’ve ever seen. These are also great items to purchase in bulk. However, keep in mind that sales at grocery stores, Walmart, Target, and Aldi can sometimes make them cheaper than at bulk stores. As always comparison shop ALL items you purchase!
4. Review List & Stretch Buying
After, taking inventory of what you have on hand, you’ve checked out when the local sales are happening and found out if your state has the tax free weekend you need to review your lists and consider stretching out your buying.
How much can you really afford this month? If you’ve already taken into account your back-to-school budget for the last few months you may be able to purchase everything on your list now. Or, if you seem to have a good amount of items already inventory you might get lucky. If this doesn’t sound like you right now, I would say to purchase the items that have the largest price drop right now.
For example Crayola crayons are $.50 for a 24 ct box. Super cheap! Pencil box for $.50, paper, notebooks and folders are extremely cheap right now. If your child’s lunch box and backpack can last a few more months hold off on those items. However, do start budgeting for those items over the next few months. Generally, those items will drop back down around Christmas time.
Another example of stretching your budget would be to hold off on purchasing those 4 reams of paper your child “needs”. Let the teacher know that things are tight and let her/him know that you will send a ream next month. Most teachers really appreciate the fact that you are reaching out and are willing to participate later on in the year when supplies are running low. Or you may offer to purchase extra folders, glue or crayons that are more affordable for you.
I understand you may feel funny about asking, but they will understand! It’s not the end of the world if you can’t afford it right now!
5. Swap or Thrift for Clothing
Check out Swapping Clothes or maybe even thrift stores for clothing! Some schools have donation bins for uniforms that no longer fit or are needed by the family who donated them. If you let your child’s school know you need assistance, they may offer you some of the donated uniforms . I’ve even heard of schools that actually offer swap nights where you can bring in uniforms that no longer fit and you can trade or purchase ones that do fit at reduced pricing.
Swapping with a family, friend or neighbor may also be an option for you.
Thrift stores are a great tool to utilize when you are really trying to stretch your budget. You can snag some great deals on polo shirts, khaki pants, shorts and skirts. Exactly what you need for your child’s back-to-school uniforms.
Swapping & purchasing online on sites such as Thredup, Swap.com and shopgoodwill.com are all great options. ThredUp is a personal favorite of mine! When you sign up using my link you can snag $10 in free credit to use towards your clothing purchase! Sign up and snag the free $10 NOW!
6. Shop with Gift Cards
If you plan on doing most of your back-to-school shopping at stores such as Walmart, Kohls, Target, Office Depot, Staples and Old Navy, check out reduced gift cards to use on your purchases. Sites to snag reduced gift cards on include: CardCash, Gift Card Granny and GiftCards.com. These sites offer gift cards with discounts of anywhere from 5-30% off of the face value.
Purchase the gift cards online, then use them to save even more on your purchases. Yes, buying them is an extra step in the process, but it is one that can save you tons of money. Especially if you are going to be spending a few hundred dollars on back-to-school shopping such as many families this time of year. These discounted gift cards, mixed with sales, coupons and money saving apps will really add up!
These gift card sites, purchase unwanted gift cards from people and then re-sell them for a discounted price. You can even sell or exchange your unwanted gift cards for ones that you will actually like and use! Again, mixing this process with all the others listed in this post will help you save tons not only on back-to-school shopping but can help monthly with your grocery and restaurant budgets as well!
7. Visit the Dollar Tree
Visit the Dollar Tree to save even more on back-to-school supplies and snacks! The Dollar Tree is one of my absolute favorite discount stores to shop at. Recently I purchased a 24pk of pencils for $1.00, later that night I saw the same pack at Walmart for $3.97! As much as I love Walmart, Dollar Tree can also give them a run on discounts!
There’s nothing that can beat plastic containers, paper, stickers, pens, and many more items for only a dollar. Obviously take advantage at the great deals at other stores this time of year but don’t rule them out for your shopping needs.
8. Go for Doorbuster Sales
Several stores offer doorbuster sales to help you with your back-to-school shopping. Staples, JC Penney and Office Depot are the three most common stores that offer these doorbuster sales.
Staples is really great for purchasing reams of paper for $.01. This allows you to print for next to nothing throughout the year! Other retailers have folders for $0.05ea., crayons for $0.10pk as well as notebooks for $.10-$.15ea. These are prices where you should be stocking up to last you through the year and make it till the next back-to-school years sales.
JC Penney is great for their doorbuster sales on apparel and footwear. Shop the clearance racks to save even more! School starts when the weather is still warm enough to wear khaki shorts, capri’s, skirts, polo shorts and short sleeved shirts. You can even find some light sweaters to last you till early fall in the clearance sections.
9. Sign up for Store Alerts
Most of your favorite stores are now on social media, they are in your email and they can now even be in your phone if you want them to be. Tons of retail giants are now offering text alerts that will provide you early access to sales, coupons as well as special offers for text subscribers only.
On top of the fact you get to be in the text club, just for signing up many retailers will offer you special discount coupons just for providing your email, phone number or even your twitter information. Flash sales are also up and coming ways for retailers to reel us all in. These flash sales are deeply discounted items that again, are open only to text alert members.
Check out your favorite retailers to see if they participate and what you have to gain by joining!
10. Pack Lunches & Snacks to Save
Packing lunches and/or snacks is one of the largest ways to save not only when first going back-to-school, but throughout the school year.
Lots of items can be prepped ahead to save time also! Peanut butter and jelly, tuna and ham & cheese sandwiches are all example of items that can be prepped ahead of time. On the weekend I line up 5 plastic bins that my son places his juice boxes and snacks into. Every night he is to go to the bin and load up his lunchbox. This saves us time in the morning on prep and can help a great deal when you are running behind!
Buying items in larger quantities then repackaging them into snack sizes or lunch portions can save tons on your groceries. Chips, crackers, cookies, nuts, dried fruits, trail mixes, apples, carrots, cheese blocks (cut into small squares), and celery sticks are just a few of the many examples I can think of.
Many schools now offer free breakfast to all school aged children, don’t forget to take advantage of this program if you need to. Also, many schools offer reduced or free lunches to families who qualify. Remember to apply even if you are unsure if you will qualify for the program.
Back-to-school doesn’t have to mean breaking your budget. If you follow these 10 Back-to-School Tips and Tricks, you will find it easier to afford back-to-school shopping. With a little planning, strategy, and better decision making abilities, you’ll be able to save plenty of money, get all the stuff your kids need and not break the bank or your budget. Now let’s make this year a great year!
What are some ways you save on back-to-school shopping? Do you purchase everything at once or stagger it out? I hope you enjoyed these back-to-school tips and tricks!