Frugal Back To School Shopping
It’s that time of year again… summer is almost over and the kids are heading back to school. That of course means back to school shopping. Or does it? I’m here with a couple of frugal strategies that will save you big.
Looking at the news, magazines and what everyone is doing, you get the impression that kids need new backpacks, lunch boxes and an entire new wardrobe to start school. And don’t even get me started on the 2 page list supplies the school district sends out (also conveniently provided by your major discount and office supply stores).
If you’re ready to get your child back to school on a dime, follow the strategies below in the order I share them. When in doubt, don’t buy right away.
Start With What You Have
Which brings us to my first point. Start with what you already have. Get out your child’s bag from last year along with any binders, lunch box, pencils, pens, barely used notebooks etc. Take stock of what you already have and cross that off your list of things to buy.
Look outside your kid’s room too. For example, this past year my daughter started taking a messenger bag to school that I had sitting in the closet leftover from my college days. It’s still in good shape and she’ll continue to use it this year. The same goes for her lunch box.
Look through your own stash of office supplies, pens and pencils and see what can be repurposed for school this year.
Last but not least, there’s no need to buy an entire new wardrobe. This is however a good time to go through the closet and see what fits, what doesn’t and what’s appropriate for school. For the next few weeks it should still be warm enough for summer clothes. We usually start buying what’s needed in the fall, or wait and get new jeans, long sleeve shirts and the likes as part of Christmas.
If you have older kids, don’t forget to look in their closets to see what can be passed down to younger siblings. Putting off cloth shopping even or a month or two can help not blow your budget in the weeks before school starts. It also gives you a little extra time to shop around for great deals, or pick up something at a thrift shop or yard sale that fits your kids.
Do They Really Need That?
Next look through the list of school supplies and find out if they really need everything on that list. I used to buy everything suggested during summer break, only to find out once school started that the teacher didn’t use all 5 binders and prefered a couple of different style notebooks instead. We know pick up what we know they’ll need early, and hold off on everything else until we talk to teachers.
Also, don’t feel obligated to buy classroom supplies right away. Teachers have more than enough hand sanitizer, copy paper and the likes at the beginning of the year. Instead, make a note to check after Christmas and see if there’s anything else needed. Again, this gives you a little extra time to save up and budget and keeps you from buying things the kids don’t even need.
This is also a great time to have a conversation with your kids about what’s truly important. Hint – those designer sneakers that “EVERYBODY” has aren’t it.
Buying What You Need The Smart Way
Now that you have a pretty good grasp on what you actually need to get it’s time to start shopping around. Save the circulars and look for loss leaders. These are ridiculously cheap items stores offer to get you in the door. The hope is that you’ll also buy whatever else is on your list there instead of shopping around and driving to multiple stores.
Office supply stores will often have 2 or 3 basic items super cheap. I was able to find pencils and notebook paper for a penny. Drug stores on the other hand tend to have great deals on things like backpacks and notebooks or binders. Find those amazing deals, stick to just those few items and plan to get to the store early before they sell out.