According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school shopping is the “second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.” The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $688.62 on notebooks, calculators, jeans, and everything else their kids need to go back to school.
Back-to-school spending is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be smart about what you buy and how much you spend. The following are some suggestions on how to maximize your savings as you get ready for the 2012-2013 school year.
Only Buy What You Need
New stuff is nice – but is it always necessary? School supply lists for elementary and middle school students are notoriously similar from year to year, and many items on that list – such as scissors, rulers, calculators, backpacks, etc. – are reusable.
Further, many items your kids use during the year are far from used up when they come home in their backpack at the end of the year. Glue, colored pencils, and highlighters are often found in this group. Lastly, if you bought extra supplies the year before (easy to do with notebooks and folders), check your inventory before you leave for your shopping expedition.
How Holly, mom of 2 girls in middle school, saves money: “The school supply lists for the upcoming school year are checked against our supply cabinet and is kept in my purse when shopping the sales. In exchange for recycling previously used items, we’ll buy cute decorations, magnets or storage for lockers. New items are nice, but my kids now understand how using something from last year saves money and the environment. Freshly-sharpened colored pencils work just as well as those from a new box! “
Keep it Simple
Beware of the rebate. Some stores advertise incredibly low prices; however, be careful if you see an asterisk that leads you to the words “after rebate.” Stores gamble on the fact that only half of consumers are conscientious about sending them in. Rebates add another step (sometimes more) to the savings, and others are only good for in-store purchases when you do receive them requiring that you enter the store again and buy more things that you may not even need.
Majority Rules: It’s very smart to look for deals and compare retailers online or using sale papers. However, it’s counterproductive to go from store to store simply to get the best deal on everything. With the exception of sales you find on high-priced items (such as scientific calculators or laptops), decide who has the best overall prices and just go there. The money you spend running from store to store will override the savings on the individual items if you go store hopping.
Dress for Success Without Failing on Your Budget
A huge part of back-to-school expenses is clothes. Before you even go into a store or look online, take inventory – just like you’d take inventory of other school supplies. What still fits? What’s still in good condition? Our “new stuff is nice, but is it always necessary?” statement applies here, too. Mixing and matching a few new items into the wardrobe is sometimes all you need to do.
Another money-saving tip? Set a budget. This is especially helpful once your kids begin to develop their own sense of style. There are the basics, and then there are the extras. If your children know what you’re willing to spend, they’ll do a great job helping to balance the needs with wants. Plus, this will teach them a valuable lesson in budgeting, spending and saving!
Finally, use the internet. In addition to advertising sales, retailers often advertise additional coupon savings if you buy online. Check out this easy-to-use list of coupon codes we found!
How Marty, mom of a son in elementary school, saves money: “My favorite way of saving money back to school shopping is to buy clothing the year before during the end of the season sales. I’ve had my best luck with finding amazing deals at outlet malls. Then, I will pack it away and forget about it for 10-12 months. Then when I find it again, it’s like Christmas, and I’ve already paid for it. And my kiddo has a completely new wardrobe.”
• Buy extras of basic supplies (such as folders, pencils and notebooks) that you may need more of throughout the year. It’s funny how quickly a $.19 notebook can turn into a $1.29 notebook once the snow starts to fly.
• Consider quality as much as cost. Saving a few pennies (literally) on off- or store-brand items isn’t worth it if the quality is subpar. Don’t be afraid to spend a few extra pennies (or dollars for larger items like backpacks) if the quality is clearly better. It’ll be a wiser investment in the long run.
What tips do you have for back-to-school savings?
Want to discover other ways to make your financial life simpler, smarter and better? Check out Connexus Credit Union’s blog at http://www.connexuscu.org.