Back to school. It is just so expensive – especially when you have more than one child getting ready to start classes back up again. The average family with kids in grades K-12 will spend an average of more than $625 just to get the items they need! That really can hit the budget hard.
There are things you can do to save on your Back to School shopping. We’ve got ten tips anyone can use, no matter where you live, to lower your spending.
1. Follow Penny Pinchin’ Mom! Of course this is my first tip! We are doing all we can to help you get the items you need at the best price possible. This is the time of the year when we add both an image to our sidebar AND a link in our main menu, so you can find the items you need.
The most popular feature on the site is our FREE interactive supplies database. You simply type in the product you need to find and we show you this week’s prices (including any coupons) from National stores (like Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc). This way, you can compare prices at home. It is also helpful to know what things cost before you head out!
2. Shop at home first. Before you head out, take inventory of what you have on hand. One great thing to check is backpacks. These tend to be some of the most expensive items, so you may want your kids to start the year out with last year’s backpack. Then, when they drop in price and start to move to clearance prices (in mid-September), go and get one.
Another thing to look at are clothes. Most kids will wear shorts and tees when school starts. See if the items they already own will work for a few weeks and then, when you really see those summer clothes discounts pop up, stock up!
I also recommend seeing if you can use last year’s supplies. If they had a scissors, they can use it again. The pencil box may just need to be cleaned up, but it could be used again this year. Track down the manual pencil sharpener (empty the shavings of course) and then you’ve got that done. Right there, you can find 3 items to mark off of your list – and they cost you absolutely NOTHING!
3. Follow the sales (also called loss leaders). There is no rule that says you have to do all of your shopping in a single day. If you see the pencils you need on sale this week at your local store, pick them up. Then, grab the crayons next week when you find a hot deal. Keep a list of the items you buy and then, when it is time to hit the store for your final shopping trip, you will only have to grab those few things you need, which may have not ever really gone on sale.
These items that are really low in price are what are called loss leaders. These are items which retailers know they will make no money, but they are used to get people into the store to do more shopping. Just grab those items each week and avoid the rest of the other store deals.
4. Use those coupons. This is the time of year retailers tend to release a lot of coupons. This can make the price of jeans for kids drop to as much as 60% off of retail. You can find uniform essentials as low as $5 – $6 each. When you see those coupons, grab those pieces you need!
You can also find coupons for the supplies you need for your kids. It is common to find Target store coupons which you can stack with the printable and weekly manufacturer’s coupons to get even greater discounts.
5. Share packaging. I have 3 kids. They all need pencils. Rather than get them each their own set of 10, I can often find a better deal if I pick a 30 count instead. We then open and rubberband the number each of them need to add to their supplies for their own classroom. We find that doing this is often much more cost effective then getting them each their own item.
6. Price match. Many stores price match, including Target and Walmart. This year, even Staples offers a 110% price match guarantee. When you can put this to work for you, it means you can shop at one store and get all of the deals you will find at other stores!!
Just make sure you know how the price matching works at each location before you shop (no need to have surprises when you get there).
7. Use apps. There are so many great apps including Ibotta and Checkout51. You can often find a way to get a “double dip” on a deal. That means you may find the same discount on both Checkout51 and Ibotta, so you can submit your receipt to both and get double the cash back!
8. Use gift card sites. You can find discounts on gift cards at sites such Raise. You can purchase regular value cards a discounts (sometimes as much as 20% off). Then, use those gift cards when doing your shopping!
9. Consider refurbished electronics. This is a great way to get a new computer or tablet for you kids for school – without paying too much. Refurbished often gets a bad rap as people think it means used. It simply means that it was purchased and returned. Once the box is opened, stores can not sell the item as new and must discount it for resale.
10. Get your kids involved. Kids don’t often realize how much items cost. Set a budget for them so they know how much you will pay for things, such as shoes. If you can afford to pay just $50 for a new pair or tennies, let your child know that they can get what they want, but they need to cover the additional cost. So, if they want that $75 pair, that means $25 comes out of their own pocket. That really makes them think before they shop and have to part with their own hard earned money.
What other tips do you have to save on back to school shopping costs?