As my three young kids gear up for the upcoming school year, it has me thinking of all the ways my wife and I save money on back-to-school shopping every year. Purchases like pencils, pens, notebooks, backpacks, clothing, shoes, electronics, books, you get the point! According to the National Retail Federation, the average American family is expected to spend on average $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics this year. This number is mind boggling to me. My wife and I spend way under half of that number. Hopefully these tips can keep you way below that number as well.
Shop at Discount Stores – We are talking about cheap stuff. Things like 4 glue sticks for a $1, .25 cent folders, and $3 notebooks. The brands are typically high quality and include Elmer’s, Mead, and Bic. The stores I am referring to include stores like Big Lots, Walmart, and The Dollar Store. They are must stops for school supplies like pens, pencils, notebooks, backpacks, and file folders. They have major bargains on back-to-school stuff starting in mid July running through September. They typically have better deals on school supplies than Target, and a lot better than stores like Office Depot and Office Max.
Shop at Thrift Stores – Look, we all know kids grow like weeds, typically outgrowing their clothes and shoes way before they wear them out. That is what makes thrift stores such a great stop for back-to-school clothing. Especially jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets. You will pay a fraction of the original retail price. Plus, most kids today like their clothes to be a little bit vintage and worn. Heck, jeans with holes in them sell for an outrageous price at Abercrombie & Fitch.
Find Cheap Books – If you are a college student, never buy your books at the campus bookstore. You will get ripped off every time. You need to be buying your books online and buy them used or rent them for the semester. You can easily save up to 75% off your textbooks by doing this. Use websites like AbeBooks.com, CampusBooks.com, and TextBooks.com.
Clothing Swaps – Do you have friends with similar aged kids as yours? If so, you need to do a clothing swap where you get together a couple weeks before school starts and swap gently used kids clothing. My wife and I do this every year with a few friends and we find it really works great and saves us a lot of money. Before you give the clothes your kids have outgrown to the Salvation Army, call your friends and schedule a clothing swap.
Online Deals on Electronics – Put the power of the Internet to good use when shopping for computers, graphing calculators, and smart phones for back-to-school. Always use price comparison websites like PriceGrabber.com which will quickly search thousands of online stores to find you the best price. At that point, always look for a coupon code to make the deal even sweeter. Use online coupon websites like CouponCabin.com and Rather-Be-Shopping.com to find the best code available. The deals you will find when shopping online will typically save you 15%-20% off what you would pay by driving around town looking for the best price.
In conclusion, being flexible is the key to saving the most money when shopping for back-to-school. If you plan on driving to the mall and doing all of your kids back-to-school shopping at Office Depot and Macy’s, then these tips are not going to help you. But if you can be flexible with the brand, with the store, and be happy with some used stuff, you will save a ton of money this year.
This is a guest article by Kyle James from Rather-Be-Shopping.com, a leading coupon website which lists and organizes coupon codes and hot deals for over 700 stores, organized in 25 shopping categories.