A few packets of pencils, more erasers, add a dozen pens and a few notebooks and watch the total money spent on school supplies soar. Many parents don’t bother to budget for these ancillary materials during back-to-school shopping but according to the National Retail Federation an estimated 3.1 billion dollars were spent last year on these products. That’s not chump change. So what can you do to avoid unnecessary spending on these types of school supplies? Just follow these tips and you’ll see the difference once you reach the cash register.
Reuse Old Supplies: Have your kids do an inventory of the supplies they have left over from last year. Chances are they will have erasers, pens, rulers, a calculator, crayons and even a carry case to keep them in. Why bother buying new stuff when the old things work just as well.
Buy in Bulk: When you discover a big sale at your local retailer don’t just buy what you need for the beginning of the school year. These items will probably be back to full price during the school year so purchase enough to last you through the term. This will enable you to replenish your kids’ school supplies as needed and will also save you another trip to the store.
Hunt for Values: One store may have a stellar sale on crayons while another may be offering notebooks or notebook paper for half price, if that’s the case then purchase what you need at one retailer and leave for the next store. If you don’t want to waste the extra gas find out which store price matches and then do all of your shopping there instead of driving around.
Tax-Free Holiday Shop: Find out if your state is offering tax-free holiday shopping and then do your purchasing on the designated days. You could save big money even if you have to fight the crowds. So remember to bring some extra patience with you.
Avoid the Extras: Once you start shopping you and your kids will start to notice all the cool items for sale such as the wild variety of crayons, markers, pens and other accessories. Just ignore that stuff. Go for the basics because in a few weeks all those fancy things will be collecting dust as your kids utilize their pens and pencils. Remember, all those glam-looking items are just there to entice you to spend money. It’s like the shelves of candy at the checkout line, sure it looks good but do you really need to spend the extra money – and that money adds up quickly.
Customize: If your kids don’t like their “plain” looking school supplies then have them embellish them with their own drawings, or buy favorite stickers and you’ll witness their notebooks, backpacks and other accessories become unique to their own tastes.
There you have it, a few quick and easy tips to help you save money this back-to-school shopping season. But there’s one other thing you should keep in mind, stay focused and disciplined and you’ll reap the benefits of being a savvy shopper.
About the Author
The following is a guest post from Kathryn Katz, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.