Back to School Savings Tips

By ERIN TURNER

It’s that time of year which we can’t avoid…Back to School.  While we are basking in the sun and enjoying the relaxed pace of summer, somehow the school year seems to sneak up and bite us every year.

If you have had kids in school before then you know the chunk of change you have to spend to get them ready.  If you are new to this, hang on tight!  Between school supplies, new clothes, new shoes and sports equipment, you are forking out a lot of dough.

But if you are smart and approach this time of year with some wisdom, then your budget won’t be hit too hard.  It has taken me a few years to perfect this process but I finally feel somewhat in control of the back-to-school spending.

summertime boys 1

So-long summer of 2013. It’s beenfun!

First of all, I have been stocking up all year long on school supplies.  Every time I see rock bottom prices on notebooks, pencils, rulers, scissors, etc.  I take advantage of the sales and stock up.  Usually Staples runs great sales in mid-January.  So, this year my kids will be “shopping” in our school supply closet first before picking anything up at the stores.  This helps tremendously.

When we do hit the stores for items on their list which we don’t have, I scour the store ads for the best price.  Honestly, this year I am impressed with the great sales the local stores are having for back to school.  Some of my favorite places for school supply sales this week are: Staples, Walmart and Shopko.

Here’s a little bit of advice: when you find a rock bottom price on an item, STOCK UP!  I know that seems so logical but I’m finding people aren’t doing it.  This week at Shopko you can get spiral notebooks for 15 cents.  The limit is 18.  BUY all 18, even if your student only needs 5.  Because at some point during the year, your child will possibly need more.  Plus, this is how you start to build up your supply so that next year you aren’t buying them all over again!  Invest a whopping $2.70 for a year or more filled with peace and frugality!

Back to School Savings 1

My kids will be “shopping” our very own school supply stockpile first andforemost.

I am always so appalled at the price of backpacks!  To spend $30 for something which tends to only last a school year kills me!  My best advice for backpacks is to buy in the off season or wait until they are clearancing them in late October.  Sometimes Staples has a super deal on backpacks using their Easy Rebates.  Last year I bought a really nice backpack for $25 and sent in the rebate.  In a few weeks I received my $25 back in the mail!  A free backpack that still has life for another year is my idea of smart back-to-school shopping!

When it comes to clothing, I have to admit that with boys it’s just not a big deal.  I realize raising girls demands a whole different approach to back-to-school clothing.  But I think the principle is still the same: shop the sales, stock up on essentials and do a little planning for next year so you aren’t buying ALL of the clothing/shoes during the month of August.  Since my boys aren’t too particular about having new clothes for school, I simply have to be concerned they have decent jeans and shoes when the school bell rings the first time.  My oldest son has had a significant growth spurt this summer and has outgrown all his jeans.  I had planned on gradually stocking up this summer but with his unpredictable growing pattern, I decided it would be wise just to wait until it got closer to the time when he’d be wearing the jeans to purchase them.  This week I’m seeing some rock bottom prices on basic jeans and since we are about a month out from jean season, I think I’ll be safe stocking up on a couple of pair for him.

There are also some great sales on underwear and socks this time of year.  Most of the stores have a buy one, get one free or buy one and get a gift card free.  Think long term with these sales and stock up for the year.

Back to School Savings

I NEVER pay full price for sportingequipment!

My kids play sports and that means they need certain shoes and gear for those activities.  I refuse to pay full price for any of those items.  They barely wear those things before the season is over and they have outgrown them.  I spend the year keeping my eye open at the thrift stores for soccer shoes, football shoes and other gear they need.  Most of those items have hardly been worn (think: 5 week seasons!) and are in great shape.  I have picked up Nike and Underarmor shoes that have seen very little playing time for $2!  They served my kids well and still have lots of life in them for the next kid!

Checking with friends and family is a great alternative to buying sports equipment at full price also.  Many people are more than happy to pass on sport shoes which are too small for their kids.  If your child plays YMCA soccer, they have a shoe-exchange during the first couple of games at the Fort.  Bring your child’s old shoes and exchange for a pair which fit.  There are many options out there for cheap or free sports equipment, so don’t feel pressure to buy full-priced items!

So, as summer draws to an end and school is looming in the wings my plan of attack is simple:  fill my kids’ school list with the items I have purchased for super cheap throughout the year, take advantage of the local sales by price shopping and stocking up and only purchasing clothing items which they really need at this time.  This approach to back-to-school has saved me lots of headaches, stress, time and most of all: money!  I’d rather be spending the time and money enjoying the last lazy days of summer with my boys!

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 Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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