Stick to Your Budget While Back to School Shopping
It seems like everyone is trying to save money these days. In this tough economic times, many Americans have cut back costs for almost everything, from dining out less and using coupons more to not taking vacations, and other ways to be thrifty as well, but can you really shave a large chunk off a fresh new year of school supplies?
Most schools will supply a list of required items as well as recommended items. This is a good start. You should always use a list
to anticipate what the child will need for school. Of course, pencils, pens, paper and notebooks are just the start. Try to think of anything the child may need for their grade, and also realize you might have forgotten a thing or two on your list, so allow a small amount of extra cash when budgeting and preparing the list. If the school doesn't automatically provide a list, you can try asking them for recommendations. Stick to your list and only buy the necessities.
Figure out what you already have left from the previous school year. Crayons tend to stay relatively unused for certain grades, but they still may be needed on occasion. Check what you have from last year. Does your daughter still have some folders she never used or that are still in good shape? Does your son's notebook still look like it's in great shape and functional? Did you stock up on paper bags for school lunches last year and still have a good supply, or, better yet, do you still have a reusable knapsack or lunchbox to house their lunches in? Try to use things that will save you money. For school lunches, pack them in Tupperware or other reusable storage options rather than plastic baggies and paper bags.
Check the Internet for local sales at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Target, CVS, and other local retailers and pharmacies to see which ones have the best prices for the items you need. Try to find the cheapest one or two places where you can get the majority of your supplies. Don't forget to check the Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and other similar stores. Note the store beside the item on your list to remember which store offers the most inexpensive price. If an item such as loose-leaf paper is something your child will need throughout the year and it's on sale, why not try to stock up just a bit? This can be used throughout the school year and is great for things you know your children will need over and over again.
If the gym shoes from last year are still in good shape, will your child really need a brand new pair? If they genuinely do need a pair, there are plenty of discount stores for tennis shoes such as Tennis Shoe Warehouse for $29.99 a pair, PayLess Shoe Source, and other stores that will cost far less than $80 or $100 for a pair of shoes. Even though children might not prefer it, there are plenty of great thrift shops as well that offer almost-new clothing and shoes and can save you a mountain of money rather than buying brand new clothes at a department store (even sale items). Of course, the dreaded hand-me-downs are also another option if the child is one of several in the family.
Check the area for school supply drives. You might be able to locate some by contacting local schools (even if it's not the one your child attends) for more information regarding school supply drives and other help purchasing school supplies. This is often great for low-income families who do not have enough funds to purchase every item required on the school's list, and will save the child from embarrassment in front of his class when school begins.
Some schools require their students to purchase their own textbooks. A good source for discount textbooks is online. Check out eBay, Craigslist, and search engines, as well as local libraries that might carry the book. Try to scope out a used copy for further price slashes! Yahoo and other sites also offer groups online where you can swap items. Do you have a textbook or another item someone else needs that you can give in exchange for an item you need? Usually this is free, so that will save an enormous amount of money!
Save money this year by scouring your house for last year's supplies that are still in good shape; compare online rather than burning gas driving from store to store for discounts; pack lunches in all reusable containers to save money; check the local groups, libraries, and other resources for discounts, gently used items, exchange groups, and more help. You can save hundreds by following some simple budgeting tips and still have a successful school year for your children.
Note: Article previously published at Yahoo! Contributor Network, a site no longer in operation.
Image Credit » Bethany Marsh: Personal creation in MS Paint