Back-to-school shopping can be costly for any family. Even if you're not shopping on a budget, it's a bonus to save hard-earned dollars. Last year, I bought both of my daughters' school supplies for the entire year for under $15. With smart planning and a few tips, back-to-school supplies can be cost-effective.
Get your child's list. Make a copy of your child's supply list and keep it with you when you shop. If an item on his or her list is going at a great price, buy it and mark it off your list. Often, school supply lists ask for specific brand names. They do this so you can have a mental picture of the type of item they want. Don't get caught buying the brand name. The off-brand eraser is much less expensive and equally as good a product.
What's left over from the previous year? Check supplies that came home from last year and see what's salvageable. It's one less thing to have to spend time looking for and buying this year.
Watch your Sunday ads. As back-to-school time begins, so do the sales. While you're watching the ads for school supplies, look for those Sunday coupon inserts. Last year, with coupons, I got packages of pens for free. Back-to-school savings are found at your grocery stores, too. Pair your Sunday coupons with in-store sales for savings on back-to-school snacks.
Shop more than one store. Stay away from one-stop shops. They are appealing with bulk items and bins of supplies all in one convenient spot, but they aren't cost-effective. Don't be lured into one store by its great marketing and buy everything there. You get better prices when you shop more than one store. Buy only what the advertised great buy is and leave. Shop different stores over a few weeks, plan and buy as you find great prices.
Keep your receipts with you. If you go into a store and find a purchased item on sale for less, price adjust.
Don't be afraid of rebates. Often, the office stores run rebates, making items free. It's another way to save.
Stock up for later in the year. Children run out of supplies during the year. When you get the items at a great price now, buy extra. Store them away in your school supply bin for when they're needed. During the year, school items are full price. It will save you the time and money of buying later.
Stock up on clothes for the following year. Look for end-of-summer clearances to begin. Use these sales for your next year's summer and back-to-school wardrobe. Buy clothes a size up. Basics like khakis and T-shirts never go out of style. Store them away so you don't have to buy them at full price later.
Back-to-school shopping can take a chunk out of your hard-earned dollars if you let it. With a little planning and savvy shopping, it can be realistic for your family.