A Mess Free Life may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.
It seems that the cost of sending your kids back to school goes up every year. Saving money on back to school clothes and supplies are getting super costly. And if you have more than one child, it can be a real budget buster.
School supplies and new clothes keeping getting more expensive and the list of what they need gets longer each school year.
The average family spends anywhere from $700-$1,000 on back to school clothes and supplies. And that’s only for a student in elementary, middle, or high school; college students need a lot more supplies, especially if they’re moving into a dorm.
So how do you plan for and save money on back to school clothes and supplies?
Many parents start their search for back to school discounts in the August sale papers. Whether your kids are just starting kindergarten or heading off to college, you can purchase everything they need without busting your budget.
HERE ARE MY BEST TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY ON BACK TO SCHOOL CLOTHES AND SUPPLIES
MAKE A DETAILED LIST
Have you ever noticed that when you go grocery shopping without a list, you end up spending more than you expected?
Between impulse purchases and buying items you’re not sure if you have at home or not, your bill adds up quickly. The same is true when it comes to back-to-school shopping.
The best thing you can do to keep your spending within your goal is to make a list. Start by making a list of every single item your child will need, both from the school list and what you know from experience. Include everything from backpacks to paper clips, don’t leave anything out.
Start making a list at least a week or two before you plan to shop to allow yourself enough time to think of everything.
SET A REALISTIC BUDGET
Before you head out to the stores, know precisely how much you want to spend and what you MUST purchase.
Having a spending plan in mind will help keep you from overspending. Tell your kids what your budget is so they know how much they can spend for everything they need. Getting them involved in budgeting and shopping for their supplies will teach them about how to budget. Offer them a reward for staying within budget, like a special activity or treat; this will encourage them to spend less.
To help you stay on budget even more, shop only with cash. If you’ve budgeted $500 for back to school supplies, withdraw it from the bank and put it in an envelope. That way you can only spend what you have on hand and won’t go over. If you want to teach your kids a valuable spending and budgeting lesson, put the money for back to school shopping on a pre-paid card and let them pay for everything with the card. They won’t be able to spend more than what’s available.
Remember that many schools have mandatory supplies so knowing what you MUST budget for and purchase makes it easier in some ways to save money on back to school clothes and supplies.
I do 95% of my shopping online.
With tools like Honey and Camel, Camel, Camel I can easily and quickly price compare to make sure I’m getting the lowest possible price. This allows me to save the most money on back to school clothing and supplies and it ensures I’m stretching my families budget so I can get what I need for the lowest possible price.
Plus, when I use Ebates, I’m able to save an additional sum of money just by using their portal before making my online purchase. It’s a win-win!
SHOP THE OUTLETS
I’m fortunate to live in an area that has outlets that often provide additional incentives. I recently was at the LL Bean factory outlet and scored a child’s backpack for my grandson with his name already engraved on it for only $18!
That find saved me almost $30 for the same backpack.
SHOP AT HOME FIRST
We’re all familiar with that frustration of going shopping and coming home with our purchases only to find that we already had something we needed and we didn’t have to spend money on it again.
Take a little time to look around and see what you already have and don’t need to buy. Yet another great reason to start making your list early.
Go through desk drawers, closets, and last year’s backpacks to see what you already have on hand. If you have an abundance of pens, for instance, you can cross them off your list. Doing this may also help you think of things you forgot to put on your list.
SHOP AROUND FOR THE BEST DEALS
Don’t make the mistake of buying everything at one store.
Stores frequently offer discounts on several items just to get you in, then markup other items knowing that you’ll need to purchase those too.
Instead of falling for this trap, take some time to shop the sale ads, or online sales then make a plan for where you can find each item for the best price.
You may even discover a better discount with online shopping for some of your items. If you do though, don’t forget to calculate the shipping fee for your purchase. Adding that can make it more expensive to buy online.
Becoming an Amazon Prime Member is one of the ways to circumvent the shipping costs. All Prime Members receive free shipping as well as many other benefits for the membership fee. If you do a lot of Amazon or online shopping, see if a Prime Membership is worth the money for you.
Once you’ve found the best price for everything you need, divide your list by store, so you know what you need to buy and where you plan to buy it.
SHOP ON TAX FREE DAYS OR VISIT A SALES FREE TAX STATE
Most states and counties now offer tax free shopping days for back to school supplies. They usually happen over a 3 or 4-day weekend near the middle of the month in August; check your local area for dates.
You may not think the sales tax adds up to be much, but with everything you need to buy, it can add up to enough to pay for a few extra supplies. Since these tax-free days usually happen over several days, it should allow you enough time to get to all the stores you need to.
Tax free days don’t usually apply to online shopping, but some online stores offer back to school shopping specials like days of free shipping or discount codes for minimum purchases.
If you live near New Hampshire, this is one of the tax free states you could visit to avoid a sales tax altogether.
KEEP IT MINIMAL
Although it can be tempting to stock up on reams of paper or boxes of markers when they’re on sale, keep in mind that you may not need them all throughout the school year so you’re buying supplies you may never use.
Instead, stick to your list. If you only need one box of crayons, only buy one box. If it’s a super great deal, you can buy one extra to have for a backup, but don’t throw six boxes in your cart.
Sticking with your list is the best way to stay on budget. If you find that you have money left over after you’ve completed your list, you can always go back to stock up on a great sale. But chances are, that item will be on sale again at another time during the year, and you may not even need anymore.
Shopping for back to school supplies can be challenging because you’ll find tons of great deals on things you don’t really need, but you’d like to have. Do your best to stay on budget and stick to your list; your wallet will thank you later.
Remember, saving money on back to school clothes and supplies is easy with my list of awesome tips!