Back to school, like Christmas is a family budget-buster today. According to a study by Huntington Bank, the Backpack Index revealed that the average cost of sending a child back to school was $1000 in 2017.
You do not need to drain your bank account and spend that much though. If you plan and start early, it will only cost you a fraction of the $ 1000 to set your kids off.
Here are strategies to help you shop for back to school as a frugal parent, whether your kids are off to college, or starting kindergarten.
Round up all school and office supplies you own. If you look around, you may have plenty of these lying around your house in the desk drawers, basements bin or closets. Office and schools supplies that you own can help you save a significant amount of money.
Collect all of them in a central location like the dining room. Make a list or take pictures of what you have and carry the list or photos with you to the store when going for shopping to remember what you have.
Also, check the kids closets and dispose of worn-out clothes. Donate or sell what your child has outgrown. The sweep will give you a clear picture of what you need to buy and prevent you from getting what you already have.
Plan a supply swap
Get your neighbors and friends on board, and organize a supply swap before you go shopping. You may have things that they need, like reams of paper bought on sale but will never use. Someone else may have some packs of pencils that they would willingly trade for the paper. Family and friends with school-going children may have extra supplies that they will not mind trading in. Talk to them and sell the idea.
Shop at thrift stores and garage sales
You will find used shoes in good condition, clothing, school supplies and even backpacks in garage sales. Hit up the garage sales for all the things you need as they are a treasure trove. Though this may take time, you may get great bargains and save significantly on back to school clothes and supplies. All you need to do is to start early, and also ask family and friends to keep an eye on garage sales near them. Moms will also find great bargains on other things.
Thrift stores are also a great way to save. Many stores run back to school items sales for parents and clothing is incredibly affordable. Since many parents are after saving, the selection is picked over early, hence you need to start early.
Start shopping for clothes in mid-June to late July when the clothes selection is plenty. Put the clothes away until school start so as not to wear off the newness of the clothes.
Here you will find great bargains on used clothing as their products are vetted, unlike the thrift store. You will not have to go through blouses from 1975 to get a designer cloth on a budget.
Check if consignment shops around you will have summer sales. Many organize seasonal sales. Keep watch on the back-to-school shopping season as several stores may have a mega-sale in one location.
Check the dollar store
Dollar stores have incredible school supplies bargains and you will find basic things like pencils and notebooks, sanitizer, and Kleenex, all at discounted prices. Shop in summer months as you will never know what the stores will order and how long the items will be in stock.
Amazon’s ever-changing prices are a great way to save on kids electronics that most parents have to buy. Websites like camelcamelcamel track the history of the price range for every product on Amazon. Sign up for the price change alert of the particular products so that you can tell when it changes.
There are many apps to help save money by comparing prices across retailers to find out the best deal. ShopSavvy, available for Android and iOS users will let you know if a product is available at a lower price in another store when you scan the barcode. Download a barcode scanner for it to work.
Also, check your nearest drugstore or grocery store for the best prices on school supplies. You may be surprised that items are cheaper in your neighborhood when on sale than the big stores. If you have any store dollars from loyalty programs, consider using them and save.
Many parents would rather enjoy summer than think of back to school shopping for the coming school year. However, it pays to prepare early. Planning ahead will save you money as you take advantage of every sale and opportunity to save that comes your way. Find a safe way of keeping the coupons you collect through the year as they will come in handy when shopping for back to school.
This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.