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How To Save Money On Back To School Shopping

At the best of times, we all want to save money on back to school shopping. In these challenging economic times, back-to-school time can be an overwhelmingly expensive experience.

We all want to do everything we can to ensure our kids have all they need to have a successful school year. This year more than ever. 

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to see to it that your child is ready.

Below you will find some simple strategies that will help you stretch your back-to-school funds.

You really can spend less this year while preparing your children for their best school year ever!

save money on back to school shopping

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How much money do we spend on back to school shopping?

Families with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average of $696.70, according to the National Retail Federation.

In this report, we detail several simple strategies that will help you stretch your back-to-school funds.

You really can spend less this year while preparing your children for their best school year ever!

Save Money On Back To School Shopping

Shop Your Closets

Most of us at some point have bought an item we thought we needed, only to come home and discover that we already had one!

This is particularly true with back-to-school shopping.

Before the pressures from peers and advertisements encourages your kids to ask you relentlessly for new gear, it’s important to know what school supplies and clothing your children already have.

Take some time to shop your closets, desks and drawers. 

Let your child help out and make the most of the chance to declutter before the whirlwind of the school year starts again. 

A lot of us have it ingrained into our heads that we have to buy new clothes for our kids for the start of school.

This is not true!

It’s actually wasteful to buy a special “first day of school outfit” if you have perfectly good clothes already. 

Plus, no one will remember what your child wore last year so don’t worry about the carpool gossips! 

Your Child’s Desk: Home of Hidden School Supplies

Although your ultimate purpose is to take inventory, you’re also looking to find space for the new school supplies you’ll soon be buying.

Follow this handy list of basic steps for this process:

1.Go through your child’s desk drawer by drawer.

Be sure to check every drawer.

You may even want to dump them out on the floor and go through the piles of stuff there, rather than rummage through the drawers themselves.

As you’ve probably learned long ago, kids can be remarkably good at “hiding” items from parents, and even from themselves.

2. Have your child help you sort out nearly new items, partially used items, and old desk supplies that can be thrown away.

If your child seems resistant, try making a treasure hunt out of it.

Create a list of school supplies you’re “hunting” for and check them off as they find each one.

3. Place all the nearly new supplies in a box.

A large, clear Tupperware or Rubbermaid tub is a great way to see what you’ve got inside of it.

Of course, any box will work – even a used cereal box if you’re really tight on money.

3. Label the box clearly, and put it somewhere out of reach until the next school year.

Once you’ve gone to the work of gathering all of these supplies, there’s no sense letting them go back “into circulation.”

You’d just have to find them all over again!

 Your Child’s Clothing Drawers

Next, it’s time to clean out the closet, dresser, and other clothing storage.

Start with the drawers to make room for more folded clothes.

Divide and conquer

One by one, remove the drawers and sort the clothes.

For this, it helps to have three boxes or bags. Label them “To Keep,” “To Give Away,” and “Garbage.”

 Items that are torn, stained, faded, or worn go into the rag bag or the garbage.

 Have your child try on clothing items that are still in good shape.

Do they fit?

Are they good enough to use to start out the upcoming school year?

Separate play clothes

Clothing that can still be worn but that you don’t see as school-worthy can be stored in a separate drawer.

These garments can be for wearing around the house or when your child goes out to play.

Hand down What You Can

If you come across clothes in pretty good shape but that don’t fit, fold them neatly and place them into the “To Give Away” box.

Donate those items to a favorite charity, hand them down to other parents, or better yet, sell them on a local buy and sell group on Facebook.  

Once you’ve cleaned out the drawers, move to the closet.

You’ll have made lots of space for folded clothes, including play clothes, some of which will probably be “retired” from the closet.

Your Child’s Closet

If your child hasn’t worn an item for some time, let them try it on so you’ll know whether it will work for the coming school year.

For clothes that are outgrown or suitable only for play, put them in the appropriate bag or box.

Going through school clothes doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

Your child will certainly have opinions about what should be kept for future use.

And not everything needs to be tried on. Some things will obviously not fit, and some will be too worn-out for school.

Also, if you have a very young child or feel like it might be too much to tackle all at once, you can break this into even smaller steps.

One way to make this easier would be to make a pile of all of the clothes you aren’t sure still fit, and have your child try them on later, instead of while you’re working on the closet.

Taking an inventory of everything your child has relevant to school can save you big money.

Thoroughly investigate your child’s room to see what’s actually needed for the upcoming school year.

Doing so will increase your back to school savings.

Make A Master List

As you go through drawers and closets, keep a running list of what you need to buy.

That way you won’t go overboard when you hit the stores. 

Simply record the essentials your child will need, including school supplies and clothing.

Consider what specific types of clothing your child needs.

Keep in mind that there’s no need to shop for a whole year’s worth of clothes at once!

Your child may outgrow them anyway. Focus on fall, and go from there.

School Supplies

You’ll likely need some specific school supplies for the upcoming academic year.

Some schools send out a list.

In general it works out cheaper to source the items yourself rather than buy the package deal they offer. 

Here are some items you might include on this list:

  • Pens
  • Lined paper
  • Crayons
  • Ruler
  • Protractor
  • Spiral notebooks
  • 3-ring binders
  • Backpack
  • Art supplies
  • Calculator

Make sure to also take advantage of freebies like our free printable back to school interview or free printable first day of school signs. 

There’s no need to fork out a ton of money on wooden signs. 

Saving Money On Your Back To School Shopping

Think about what type of backpack your child needs.

Depending on your child’s age and stature, you might want to consider a rolling backpack to help them avoid shoulder and back injuries.

Also, can they still use their backpack and lunchbox from last year? Buy quality so it lasts for several years. 

Know the exact type of supplies needed, as many teachers are quite specific about their requirements.

For example, if your child is in middle school or high school, you may need to purchase a scientific or graphing calculator.

Similarly, you might need a specific brand of pencils. 

Be familiar with the stores in your area.

If your child has enough leftover school supplies to last for the first 2 weeks or so of school, consider waiting until after that time to buy anything new. 

Many retailers offer deep discounts on leftover inventory after school starts.

How to Save Money On Back To School Clothing

Reflect on what types of clothing and how many of each kind of garment your child needs for school.

Review the following sections to determine which of these clothing suggestions will work for your child.

For girls, consider this list of clothes to start the school year off right:

  • 2 new pairs of comfortable pants
  • 3 pairs of jeans
  • 1 skirt or dress
  • 3 blouses or shirts
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • A light jacket or long sweater
  • A winter coat with hat and gloves
  • Indoor and outdoor shoes
  • Rain gear (boots, jacket)

For boys, the list includes:

  • 3 new pairs of pants
  • 3 good shirts
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • A light windbreaker
  • A winter coat with hat and gloves
  • Indoor and outdoor shoes
  • Rain gear (boots, jacket)

As with school supplies, if your child has enough clothes to begin the new school year, wait a few weeks to buy new clothes. Kids’ clothing goes on sale at that time and you can get a lot more for your money.

Simple Strategies to Increase Your Back to School Savings

Setting up and sticking to a budget will definitely increase your savings.

Stick to Your Budget

It’s smart to draw up a budget for your child’s school year needs.

Without a budget, you may over-spend.

The amount you budget will largely depend on what you can afford and what your child needs to prepare for the new school year.

Recent research indicates parents spend, on average, slightly over $600 per child to get them ready for school.

This is the perfect time for children to learn to budget, shop strategically and avoid impulse buys.

Get them involved with your back to school shopping and explain the budget to them. 

Shop During Tax-Free Holidays

Do you live in or near a state with a sales-tax-free holiday?

You can experience more savings on your back-to-school shopping if you take advantage of these days offered by several states.

The savings tend to be offered by the state over one or two weeks’ time.

During that period, you’ll be charged no sales tax on school supplies for your child, which will save you money, sometimes close to 10%!

Also, many stores offer sales at the same time to encourage you to visit their store to do your shopping.

Use Social Networking to Pump up Back to School Savings

Are you socially savvy?

If so, you can receive alerts and special offers from these social networking sites.

If not, get familiar with them so you can take advantage of their back-to-school savings.

On Twitter, “follow” various retailers who’ll announce sales and even send out coupons to all their Twitter followers.

On Facebook, simply “friend” the Facebook account of the retailers where you plan to shop.

You’ll be invited to the store to take part in sales. You might even receive special coupons to use to purchase items at a discount.

If you’re feeling unsure about where to start, talk to other parents in your area who are computer-savvy.

They’ll certainly have some tips and may even be willing to sit down with you and get you started.

Where to Shop For Back To School Shopping

Consignment Shops

Especially if you prefer name brand clothing for your kids, consignment shops can offer some nice price breaks on barely worn clothing.

However, be aware that some consignment shop pricing is so high that, for the same amount, you can buy new items at the Wal-Mart instead.

Thrift Shops

For parents and teens looking for the best buys possible, check out your local thrift shops.

Your dollars spent will go to the charity involved. Look each item over very carefully for stains, rips, or missing buttons before purchase.

Since thrift shops are constantly getting in new items for sale, stop in every week or so to see the latest items.

Dollar and Discount Stores

Visit your local dollar and discount stores.

Such stores often have deals that can’t be beat on school supplies, like paper, pens, spiral notebooks, 3-ring binders, and backpacks.

Outlet Malls

If you live within an hour’s drive of an outlet mall, seriously consider doing some of your school-shopping there. 

Online Shopping

Search the internet for online deals and coupons you can use at various online and offline suppliers.

“Group buy” websites – like Groupon and Living Social – and Amazon are great for this.

Use price comparison websites to find the least expensive pricing on specific items you seek.

Ensure you include shipping costs when evaluating the final price of your items.

Don’t forget to use to boost your savings. 

The Best Time For Back To School Shopping

About 6 weeks before your child is due to start the new school year, your local retailers will begin advertising plenty of sales for school supplies and clothing in the local newspaper.

Take a close look at all the sales flyers, as some of the pricing will be a better deal than others.

Some retailers will have unbelievably low prices – for example, spiral notebooks for twenty-five or fifty cents each.

So keep your eyes open to grab some great back to school savings.

Back To School Shopping: Final Thoughts

Take inventory of your child’s belongings, make a list of items needed, and get rid of barely worn clothing.

Ultimately, this will save you money.

Applying simple strategies like making a shopping budget will also help.

Knowing where and when to shop will put money in your pocket, too.

Strive to put these methods into practice this year for your best back-to-school savings ever!

More Back to School Tips

How To Pack School Lunches That Your Kids Will Actually Eat

Free Printable First Day Of School Signs For All Grades

12 Back To School Traditions To Start This Year

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