FRUGAL BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING
It’s that time of year again. Yes, time to send the kids back to school. For us frugal minded parents, this is not exactly a fun time. School supplies and clothes can be quite expensive. Never fear, my frugal friends, I have some ideas that may help ease the pain we feel in our purses.
One very good thing you can do is to take advantage of tax weekends in your state. Some states offer a tax-free or reduced tax weekend on qualifying purchases such as shoes, clothes, school supplies and some computers purchases. You can check online to find out when your state is hosting their weekend, as well as a list of qualifying purchases. This is a yearly event, so if you’ve missed this year’s weekend, no worries. You already have a feather in your cap for next year. Many stores also offer special deals on tax weekend so check fliers to make sure you shop the stores with the best deals for what’s on your shopping list.
Speaking of lists, make one. Don’t go shopping without one because you will surely spend a lot more than you intended. A list helps prevent impulse shopping. On your list include the items you need to purchase and the quantity. For example, don’t just say you need pants for your son. Have him try on what’s in his closet and then determine the specific quantity you need. Also include which stores have the best deal on the item you need to purchase. I would even include price. This helps because you might be in a store with an unadvertised sale that will save you more money than the store on your list. You need to know the price you were going to pay to make that savings determination. Include on your list if you have a coupon. Don’t forget to take the coupons from the stores’ fliers along with you. While they usually keep an abundance of fliers handy in the store, you never know if you’ll arrive just when they’ve run out! Lists also help save on gas. By knowing which stores you are going to visit, you can map out the bet route for visiting each store.
Another important component of frugal school shopping is to have a budget. By making and sticking to your budget, you’ll be less likely to overspend. I’m a proponent of school shopping with cash. As you make each purchase, you can visually see how much money you have left. This is a strong motivator to stick to the budget.
You can also shop online. Many big box office supply stores offer good deals on school supplies and school related electronics during back-to-school time. Take advantage of them. If you use twitter, you might even be able to score an online coupon. That happened to me recently. I tweeted about how excited I was to receive two coupons in the mail from one big box store. Later that evening, they sent me a coupon code that was even better than the ones I received in the mail.
If your child wears uniforms, think about setting up a clothing swap. Depending on the style of uniform you might be able to include parents from other schools. You can advertise in the neighborhood or even use craigslist or meetup.com . You might even be able to get the school to advertise the swap, as a service to parents. There’s definitely no harm in asking. Even if your child isn’t in uniforms, a clothing swap might still be a good idea. It’s completely free so why not give it a try. It would definitely cut down on your clothing budget this season.
If your child doesn’t wear uniforms, I have two pieces of advice. First, don’t get carried away with designer labels. Sure, kids want designer clothes because “everyone else is wearing it”. However, the money spent on one designer piece of clothing could buy several items that don’t sport a designer label. This approach may not be popular with your child. But remember, once you put on a top, no one can see the label on the jeans anyway. There are always nice-looking designer knock-offs. And if you simply must buy the “label”, shop at a discount designer store like T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. The same rule applies to school supplies. There’s nothing wrong with buying store or “off” brand school supplies. A pencil is a pencil. A plain ten cents folder holds the same papers a $1.79 folder. Be strong mom and don’t give in to the “but it’s so cute” plea.
My second piece of advice is to simply buy less. There are sales going on throughout the school year. Fill in where clothes have gotten too small. If 5 pair of jeans have bitten the dust, then just replace those for now. Don’t feel pressured to buy enough clothes for a small village. If you haven’t already done so, add a category to your budget for clothing and buy a few items each month. This keeps their wardrobe fresh. In addition, it may keep you from having to replace everything when your child hits that unexpected growth spurt later this year. And with the items you do purchase, make sure your child can easily mix and match them. This makes it easy to extend their wardrobe by creating several outfits from a few basic pieces.
These few simple tips will get your kids back to school without blowing your budget or burning a hole in your purse. Go forth and save!