10 Tips for Inexpensive Back-to-School Shopping
Summer is here! Right now, it’s time for warm weather, trips to the pool, barbecue in the backyard, and family vacations. It goes by in the blink of an eye, and before you know it, it’s another year of school for your kids!
Back-to-school shopping can get pretty expensive (especially if you have more than one kid in school!). If you’re dreading the expense, there’s good news! I have my top 10 tips for inexpensive back-to-school shopping–so you can get everything your kids need for the year without breaking the bank. Plus, if you do a little planning now–finding coupons, scoring a few items here and there on sales, etc.–you can save BIG.
Here are my best tips for cheaper, less stressful back-to-school shopping:
#1 Free Printables
There’s no need to splurge on fancy planners or organizers to stay organized for back to school. Use free printables like this free back-to-school checklist. You can also head to Pinterest for loads of additional free back-to-school printables. (There are lots of other frugal mommas out there in the same boat as you!)
#2 Don’t Discount Office Supply Stores
It can seem like Target and Walmart are the only places you should go for back-to-school supplies, but don’t forget about office supply stores! Places like Office Max, Staples, Office Depot, etc. can have some great deals on high-quality materials.
#3 Go it Alone
This is one of the most underrated tips out there! (It’s the dark horse that will make a big difference in your bill at the cash register.) If you can leave the kids home with your spouse–or even get a babysitter–go back-to-school shopping by yourself. Why? Because kids are suckers for marketing, and they will always go for the most expensive character folder, tablet, pencil case, etc. (Stores know this: that’s why they put all that stuff at a kid’s eye level on the shelves.) If you do bring them shopping with you, show them only the more inexpensive options. (For example, you can give them a choice between two inexpensive options, so they at least have some input.)
#4 Price Compare Stores
I get it: going to one store is the most convenient way to back-to-school shop. You’re in, you’re out (relatively) quickly, you’re done. But you might end up over-paying when you could have gotten a great deal somewhere else. That’s why I recommend taking the items on the back-to-school list and price shopping between stores. (Don’t just assume Walmart or The Dollar Tree are the cheapest stores. You may be surprised at the deals you find in other stores like Office Depot, Staples, and Office Max!) It will probably be worth it to stop at two (or more) different stores to get the best bang for your buck.
#5 Don’t Buy the Cheapest Supplies.
This seems counter-intuitive but hear me out: if you base your buying decisions only on the price tag and don’t look at the quality of the item, you’re going to pay later. Those cheap, low-quality folders and backpacks? You’ll be replacing them midway through the year–which ends up costing you more in the long run. Dont’ settle for cheap glasses that they have over the counter for you kid when they go back to school. Get them some quality prescription glasses so that they don’t have to squint in the classroom.
#6 Check out Wholesale Clubs.
You might think little Jimmy doesn’t need 96 pencils, but by the time the school year is over, you may be surprised at how many he used! I sometimes think my son eats the pencils because he goes through so many. Plus, remember that teachers often ask for donations throughout the year. If you stock up now, you’ll be prepared when she does. (I don’t know about you, but I could do without the frantic last-minute trips to the store after my kiddo mentions, “Oh, by the way, donations are due tomorrow…”)
#7 Stick to the List.
Teachers are usually good about recommending only the things your kid actually needs during the year: they know that parents aren’t made of money! Stick to the list, and don’t be tempted by the things that the stores (or even other moms) say are “must-haves.”
And no matter how big of a tantrum little Susie makes in the store, she doesn’t need a sequined purse to be successful in the first grade. (Also, this is why I recommend tip #3.)
#8 Shop End-of-Summer Sales.
Kids can typically wear short-sleeved shirts for months after summer is officially over. Wait till summer is over and stock up for future seasons!
#9 Host a Swap.
Invite your friends with kids the same gender (but different ages) as yours to a clothes swap. You can structure it so that anyone can take clothing as long as someone brings something. (I love this tip: what mom doesn’t have bins of old kid clothes that she keeps in the basement “just in case”?)
#10 Follow Money-Saving Sites for Deals.
Follow your favorite money-saving sites, like Freebie Finding Mom so you find out the latest deals as soon as they become available! That way, you don’t miss out on any of the sales and deals that will help you save.
Check out coupons, online promo codes, and other deals to save on back-to-school supplies. I particularly love Valpak for this: not only can you opt to get an envelope of local coupons delivered to your door, but you can also visit their website to get printable coupons and even promo codes! (Using promo codes is great for when you want to save…but you don’t want to leave your couch ;)) Valpak’s website is searchable by location or store–so you can find deals at local businesses in your area and find savings at the big-box chains. Not to mention, there’s even an app, so you can save on the go!