There’s no doubt about it—you and your child likely will cough up a nice chunk of change to cover the expense of back-to-school supplies. Kids can use multiple strategies to keep more money in their pockets during the process of shopping, though. These are among the best saving tips.
1) Ask about price matching, THEN comparison shop with a chart.
Many major chains that have back-to-school sales, such as Staples, will give you supplies at competitors’ rates if you can bring in sales papers showing the lower advertised cost. Most people forget about these policies and fail to negotiate cost this way, the end result being that they spend more time and gas visiting multiple stores. If the stores around you won’t match prices, work with your child to make a chart of prices. One column should be all the items on the back to school list, along with the number to be purchased. Additional columns to the left can be for each store you need to visit. Go through the sales papers and make a simple X or check mark where each item is cheapest. Don’t forget to consider coupons in the process!
2) Shop out of season for clothes.
Virtually all stores reduce rates on clothing at the end of each season to make room for the next round of inventory, sometimes giving discounts of up to 75%. Snap up these deals for the following year, anticipating up a size or two if needed. Even items like cute scarves, fashion boots and sunglasses can be totally affordable for your child this way.
3) Go neutral on bottoms, colorful on tops, high quality on all.
Lots of kids want bold, colorful leggings, skirts or non-standard jeans in their wardrobe, but buying these kinds of clothes means it’s often harder to coordinate with sweaters, blouses and other tops. If you buy regular jeans in plain blue, grey, black or khaki, you can pair them with just about anything and you won’t need to buy as many. Your kids can still get plenty of style and color in the shirts and accessories they choose. No matter what clothing style your child prefers, don’t be so quick to direct him to the cheap tees and polos. Higher quality clothes might look pricier at first, but they can end up costing less in the long run if you don’t need to replace them as often.
4) Stick to the list, but buy in bulk.
Teachers publish school lists for a reason. It’s not just to let you know what you need. It’s also to let you know what’s not necessary. Don’t be sucked into buying what looks cute (for instance, a fluffy puppy dog pencil case) just because it’s on sale. Do check the lists and see what items seem to be pretty consistent for all grades, such as notebooks and pencils. Buy these items in bulk. Your child will be able to dip into what you’ve stocked at any time and can use extras the following fall, locking in the current year’s price
5) Go digital.
Many schools are realizing that it’s less expensive for students to download their textbooks, and at the same time, publishers are catering to the demand for digital educational texts by supplying PDF or other versions of their books. See if you can get electronic copies if you can, especially for classics your child might use in English class. Bonus? Your child can carry their tablet or smartphone instead of 30 pounds of back-breaking collections. This tip is especially handy for kids who are dual enrolled or starting off to college.
6) Think ahead with technology.
If you have more than one child, buying multiple laptops, tablets or other items like graphing calculators can be costly. You might save money in the long run if you shell out a little more for a model that has just come out and, therefore, won’t be obsolete as quickly. These models can be handed down from one user to the next. By contrast, if you have just one child who needs the equipment and it’s only to be used for one term or year, you might want to consider a less expensive, less up-to-date or feature-laden model, as the technology won’t get used again once your child is finished with it.
Education is only getting more expensive over time. Shopping for school, however, still holds the opportunity for kids to learn good financial lessons, such as looking for high quality and using price matching. You can keep reinforcing these ideas every fall.