Summer is in full swing and that means it’s time to start planning your back to school shopping. If you’re like me, your kids often have a “growth spurt” over the summer, which means not only pens, pencils and notebooks, but often a whole new set of clothes and shoes. When you’re buying for multiple children, these expenses can add up fast.
Here are some money saving tips to help you get the most bang for your back to school bucks.
Clothing & Shoes
Purchase clothing that is on clearance a size or two larger. July and August are when most retailers start clearing out summer clothes to make room for fall and winter items. You can find great deals on shorts, t-shirts and sandals and use them for the following spring and summer. After Christmas, do the same thing for fall and winter clothing.
For shoes, look for BOGO sales. Many chains like PayLess will offer these late summer deals to clear space for winter items. It’s a great way to save on new tennis shoes for more than one child.
Consider hosting a clothing exchange at your church or in a local group. Everyone can bring in gently used and outgrown clothing, shoes and coats and “shop” for other items. Exchanges are a great way to get clothes for free.
Check out thrift stores for great deals. Children’s consignment shops are also a great way to pass on gently used clothing and use the store credit you receive to purchase other items.
Keep an eye on public bulletin boards and in local papers for rummage sales. These larger events are held by churches and community organizations. They are a great resource for bargain hunters.
Facebook Marketplace is another option for gently used clothing, shoes and coats. List items you no longer need for free. Sell them and put that money towards things you do need.
Basic School Supplies
Most big chains have good bargains for basics like paper, glue sticks, crayons and markers. Once school starts, these items are often marked down even more. It’s a great time to stock up on clearance items and store them for the following year.
We buy folders, notebooks, glue sticks and other items for use in our home and business. What we don’t use ourselves, the kids can use the following year.
You don’t have to buy the name brand just because your school supply lists it. Most teachers and schools list brand names like “Crayola” because they get an incentive to do so. If you are able to and want to help your school, by all means purchase the name brand, but it’s not a requirement.
Check office supply stores. Most people don’t associate office supply chains with school supplies, but they often have better pricing than WalMart or Target.
If you’re struggling and need help with school supplies, many local organizations do drives where they provide basic supplies for free to low-income households. Check in your community. Local churches, the police and even city organizations will do these types of drives. Chances are your local Chamber of Commerce would point you in the right direction if you are unsure where to look.
Backpacks & Bags
Avoid purchasing backpacks in the big box stores. They are poorly made and often break within a month or two. Less isn’t always more and there’s a reason they are priced cheap – because that’s what they are. Look online for specials and purchase a high quality backpack. You’ll get a few years of use out of it and will spend less in the long run.
eBags is a good website for researching and purchasing higher quality bags. They offer a 25% off coupon if you subscribe to their mailing list. A strong, sturdy weatherproof bag is a good investment. If you have older kids who are carrying expensive tablets, you may want to purchase a bag with anti-theft protections.
Lunch bags are another area where you can save money in the long run by staying out of the back to school section. Find a good quality, insulated food bag and it will last a long time with proper cleaning and maintenance.
Electronics & Tech
Older kids often need tablets and expensive calculators for school. NewEgg is a great online resource for finding tablets and computers for less than what you’ll pay on Amazon. They also offer free shipping. Avoid the lower-quality tablets at box stores and look for deals online, the quality is always better for the price.
Graphing calculators are another expensive requirement for older kids. Many school lists insist on the Texas Instruments brand, but there are other graphic calculators that have come onto the market in recent years that are much less expensive and perform the same functions. Shop around and look online for the best deals. Ask around also. You may be able to buy a used one from a graduated student who no longer needs it.
Hopefully these tips have given you the tools you need to make back to school shopping less stressful. A bit of research and due diligence and your kids will have everything they need for a successful new year.