1. Inventory so you won’t overbuy. Go through drawers and closets to inventory your child’s current wardrobe. Sort items that are too small or never get worn at all and donate them to a local charity. Older children’s acceptable outgrown clothes can go to a younger sibling, if possible. After determining the number of acceptable outfits you already have, you can make a realistic list of specific items you need to buy.
2. Plan. The key to saving is planning. Before you leave the house to start buying school clothes, backpacks and supplies, sit down and plan what you need to buy with your student. Discuss what your student wants and make a specific list of what they need to buy – this will save money, time and stress. While you are out do not overbuy, it‘s easy to do before you see what your children like. Once the school year is going for a few weeks you can sit down again with your child and plan what they need and prefer.
3. Tax Free can save you up to 10%! Take advantage of tax-free holidays in some states to save the cost of sales tax. http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales_holiday.html
4. Check newspapers and websites. Watch for special promotions in the newspaper ad circulars. Many will have generous coupons in addition to sale prices. Also, check out store websites where you can find great coupons such as www.rackroomshoes.com, www.payless.com, www.shoecarnival.com, www.premiumoutlets.com.
5. Email. When you check your favorite store websites for coupons and promotions also sign up for their email newsletter to get special coupons and discounts. Be sure to subscribe to the email newsletter of your local mall,too. You will be sent information and free coupons for special promotions.
6. Purchase a few extras now. Watch for sale prices of up to 90% (or even get free items) at this time of year and stock up for the entire year. Look at store ads for grocery stores, drugstores, big box discount stores, and office supply stores. Bargains will continue starting now through September. When a note comes home from the teacher in January requesting more paper or crayons you’ll have extra on-hand.
7. Price Match. Take advantage! Basic school supplies are at their lowest price during this time of year (50-90% off)—some items are as low as 1 cent each, or even free after a coupon or promotion. Check the advertising circulars for grocery stores, drugstores, office supply stores and even dollar stores. Find the lowest advertised price for every item that you need, circle the item and price in each circular, and take all of the circulars to the closest store that “price matches,” meaning they will honor any other store’s lower price. Walmart and Target stores have a national price matching policy. Call your local stores ahead of time to ask if they price match and many will match competitors’ prices if you ask. Save time, money and gas!
8. Backpacks. For younger children, the $5 to $10 backpacks on sale at discount and drugstores may be all they need. As students get older, it could be worth investing in a higher quality backpack to last several years. You can expect a good backpack to last a few years and provide the necessary support and padding for heavier books.
9. Shoes. The back to school season is the busiest time of year for shoe sales. As a result, stores have many special promotions to get our attention. Because common promotions are “buy one pair, get the second pair 50% off” it makes sense to take your entire family shoe shopping together. If you can find a coupon to use along with special promotions, you will really save. And, if you know the size and style of shoe you need, check online shoe retailers for bargain prices, coupons and free shipping to save time and money.
10. Wait and save with online shopping. Shop summer sales to get a few new items for the beginning of the year. Then, wait to shop for fall/winter clothing in a month or so when those items start going on sale. Check the retailers’ websites for special coupons, promotions and free shipping offers.
Stephanie Nelson is the Coupon Mom. Her website, www.CouponMom.com, has 7 million members, and she is established as the nation’s top expert in couponing across the country. Stephanie has been on every major national television talk show and taught millions how to save money for the past 13 years. She has been called ‘”the rock star of the recession” by the Washington Post and her book, The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half, is a New York Times best seller.