Maybe I was just that nerdy kid, but the end of August was always my favorite time of year. I loved getting ready to go back to school, and school supply shopping was pure bliss. There’s nothing quite like a new composition book waiting to be filled.
I’m sure that my back to school bliss will not be quite what it used to be, now that I’m the one buying the supplies. Even if you are a smart shopper and plan ahead, buying everything on your child’s school supply list, as well as new school clothes and shoes etc. can set you back hundreds of dollars. Especially on tight budgets, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
School supply shopping doesn’t have to break your budget, though. Use these simple, budget friendly tools for getting your kids back to school ready.
Set a Budget
Set a budget so you don’t break your budget. In the stress of the last few weeks of summer, it can be easy to throw your budget out the window for the sake of just getting everything on your to-do list done. Before you even set foot out the door or click that mouse, make sure you have a definitive number for your school supplies budget. If you don’t have a hard-line amount budgeted for school supplies, you might spend more than you can actually afford. You don’t want to be hurting for money before your next pay check, so take a few minutes to lay out exactly what your finances can handle.
Take Advantage of Tax Holidays
Find out when your area has a tax-free holiday. My own area’s tax holiday is August 7-9. During the tax holiday, certain clothes, shoes, and school supplies are exempt from sales tax. Make sure to plan ahead and go shopping early on those days, because more popular school supply items might run out of stock. Not having to pay out that (in my case) 6% tax will save a lot of money. By planning on getting your school supply shopping done during the tax holidays, you will be able to stretch your dollars to buy more or higher quality items with your money.
Shop From the List
It’s tempting to let your kids pick whatever they want from the school supply aisles. Make sure that you’re shopping from their list though. Those small unnecessary items can really add up quickly.
If you are shopping online, Amazon and Walmart have school supply list search engines which make it easy to buy from and check off the school supply list.
Save Money Online
You can save money while shopping online by using a comparison search engine like PriceGrabber or Google Shopping. Just type in the item that you are looking to buy, and prices for multiple locations will show in the search results. Comparison Search Engines are powerful tools which can help you get the most out of your money by easily seeing which store has the lowest prices.
Consider adding CouponSumo to your browser. It is a coupon code finder which alerts you to available online coupons while you’re browsing the web.
If you plan to do a bulk of your school shopping online, Discount School Supply is just one of many websites that offer school supplies for significantly lower prices than even Walmart. Also, Target has a program called School List Assist as well as buy one get one 50% off deals running through September for online and in-store back to school shopping.
Shop at Discount or Closeout Stores
Gabe’s, Big Lots, Dollar General, Roses, and Tuesday Morning are my favorite discount stores for finding inexpensive school supplies and back to school clothes. Also check your local dollar store to see if you can pick up items like tissue boxes and wipes. Stay away from cheaply made pens or highlighters though, which may dry out or break. Sometimes it’s best to pay a little bit more for quality so that you don’t have to go out and replace the cheaply made items later in the year.
Don’t Lose That Excitement
School supply shopping can be a huge burden for a lot of families. The stress of figuring out how you’re going to pay for it all can really have a negative effect on the experience. Be a savvy shopper and look for good deals and coupons before you head out to buy everything on that list, take advantage of the tax holidays, and price compare online. A little bit of advanced planning can really help protect your budget. Try to be as excited about the school year as possible. Your excitement will excite your kids, and back to school shopping will become a fun childhood memory for them.