It's nearly time to send the kids back to school, and that means its also time for school supply shopping. That can get pretty expensive, so finding ways to save money is crucial. Here are a few tips on how to shop for school supplies without having to dip into your life's savings.
Make Sure You’re Cutting Back in the Right Areas
The cost of school supplies adds up quickly, especially if you’re sending multiple kids back to the classroom. It’s understandable that you want to save money wherever you can, but skimping on everything is not necessarily the cheapest solution. Spending a little extra on a backpack from a trusted name is a lot cheaper than buying a cheaper one and replacing it later. If your student will be lugging heavy textbooks to and from school every day, it’s important to buy a backpack that can handle the wear and tear.
Check Your Inventory
One of the biggest complaints from parents this time of year is that they have to buy supplies that their children will hardly ever use. While this can be frustrating, it can also be very, very helpful. Before doing any school supply shopping, take inventory of the supplies you bought last year. Salvage whatever you can. While pencils break and glue sticks run out, things like scissors may not need to be replaced every year.
No, this does not mean visiting the website of the nearest office supply store. Rather, check out places like Amazon and Ebay for things like textbooks, backpacks, and calculators. You might be surprised at the selection, and it’ll come at a fraction of the price.
Check Out A Dollar Store First
Before hitting up your office supply store or supermarket, check the dollar store. You’ll likely find a good portion of the items on your list, like pens, crayons, pencils notebooks, tissues, and more. At a dollar per Item (or pack of items!), this option offers a deal that’s hard to pass up.
I know, I know. This is the answer that’s obvious, but that no one wants to hear. While clipping coupons may seem like more work than it’s worth, this method can lead to some serious savings. Now, I’m not suggesting that you go full-Extreme Couponing and stockpile hordes of washable glue and safety scissor in your garage until you can’t fir your car in there, but taking advantage of a few basic couponing resources is key. If you’re a smart phone user, check the app store. There are tons of apps that make coupon shopping easier, and some stores even offer their own apps for finding great deals.
Subscribe, Subscribe, Subscribe
While you’ve got your phone out, take a second to sign up for any text messaging subscriptions your store of choice offers, and be sure to follow the store on social media. Many stores use these channels to communicate deals to their customers, and this way you’ll be among the first to know. Some retailers even offer exclusive offers to customers with subscriptions to their texts or social media outlets.
Buy in Bulk
Buying school supplies in bulk will inevitably cost more up front, so you’ve got to make sure that the deal is worth it. First of all, make sure that the items you buy in bulk are ones that your student (or students) will need on a consistent basis. If this is the case, buying in bulk may very well be the best way to go if you’re looking at long term savings as well as the cash you’re saving today.
Live by a List
Most schools offer a list of the supplies required for each class. You can pick a list up at the store, or you can probably find a copy on your school district’s website. How you get a list doesn’t really matter. What does matter though, is that you do get one. And you stick to it like your life depends on it. This is crucial because shopping with kids can be quite a slippery slope. First they want one thing, then they want ten. By going in with a game plan, you’ll avoid buying more than you need.
Allow One Extra Item
Another way to avoid unnecessary expenses is to allow each child to pick out one school supply on their own. This could be anything from a pack of brightly colored, squishy pencil grips (Hey, they were cool in my day.) to a folder with Spider-Man on it instead of a plain, solid colored folder. This is necessary because let’s face it, those aisles are filled with characters, patterns and sparkles that do only two things: attract kids’ attention and drive up the price of what you’re buying. By letting your child pick out one thing, you allow them to be excited about their school supplies without having to take out a loan to cover the cost.
Setting a budget is a key component in saving money in any circumstance. It’s easy to fill up your cart with things you don’t need, but keeping track of how much you’re spending helps to reduce mindless spending. When setting your budget, make sure that the amount you decide on is reasonable. Once you set a reasonable amount, stick with it.
Enforce the budget you set by bringing cash instead of a debit or credit card. This way, you can only buy so much, and the temptation to overbuy will be reduced. (This also makes it easier to say “no” when the kids find five more things each that they’d like you to buy.)
If You’re Willing to Take the Risk, Wait
It's a dangerous game, but if you're willing to play, it might pay off. Some stores offer their supplies at a deep discount after the school year starts. You can snag some great deals this way if you're able to wait, but do so at your own risk! While supplies may be cheap, they may also be picked over or sold out.