10 Tips for Saving Money During the Back-to-School Season

The back-to-school season is in FULL swing at my house with my daughter starting pre-school for the very first time on August 27. How do I feel about my baby starting school for the first time? Depends on when you ask, today I am nervous. Yesterday, I was excited. Moms with older kids, I am sure you remember your kiddo’s first day… I feel all those things!

I love the back-to-school time of year. In addition to the symbolic reminder of a fresh start and my strange love for office supplies, the start of the school year reminds me that the fall is just around the corner which means Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are soon to follow suit.

This was a big year for back-to-school savings for me because I took on 5 school supply lists to donate to a local organization and it was my goal to do it for as cheap as possible. (After all,  I want to donate, but I am on a budget here.) I started early and I am done with my shopping now spending less than $10 for all the supplies I needed plus lots of extras. If you want to learn more about exactly how I did this you can read my progress in part 1, part 2 and part 3. Aditionally, here are my top 10 tips for saving money during the back-to-school season.

  1. Start Early – stores want to kick off the back-to-school season early and get you into their stores so the biggest tip is to start early so you can shop for the best deals as the season progresses. The exception seems to be apparel, that seems to go on sale as the season progresses so those deals are just heating up now.
  2. Know the “True” Price – I went to a store for a BOGO sale that I thought would be great, but when I got there I realized the price on the first item was $2.49, I had seen them “full price” elsewhere for $1 each. So, I passed on the deal. As I continued to watch prices I ended up buying 5 of the same item for $1. So sometimes a sale, isn’t really a sale.
  3. Don’t One-Stop Shop – I know it is hard with kids to get to lots of stores. That is the number one reason I hear for not shopping around, but if you turn it into a game it makes it fun! Otherwise that $.25 glue might be paired with a $3 box of crayons, whereas you could have purchased both for $.25 each.
  4. Make a Plan – If you are going to shop around, know exactly what you are going to purchase before you go. This makes it and in and out process so you don’t waste time debating what to buy.
  5. Research online – Every weekend there are tons of blogs and websites dedicated to pairing up the best deals of the week. If you don’t want to do the homework yourself and shop the circulars, look online and follow someone who has already done it.
  6. Take Advantage of Rebates and Rewards Programs – While rebates and rewards programs don’t offer instant gratification, the gratification will come down the line when the money comes back to you for something else you will need later down the road.
  7. Use Coupons – Did you know some stores will take competitor’s coupons? So sometimes a good deal can be made even better by comboing in a coupon from another store with a sale. Just know your store’s policy before you shop.
  8. Swap Coupons – Does your kid dig Gymboree while your neighbors kids are into Justice? Trade coupons. There are so many coupons being mailed out right now, if you aren’t going to use something share it with a friend and pass along the savings. Next time they have some extra coupons I bet they will think of you.
  9. Try a Clothes Swap – I went to my first kids’ clothes swap today and it was great. I took a few items that my daughter out grew and swapped with others for some great stuff! (Including a Cinderella shirt that my daughter is nuts for.) Don’t know where to go, start your own swap.
  10. Set a Budget and Stick to it – Shopping the best deals doesn’t do you any good if you still spend more than you have budgeted to spend. Know your limits and stick to them.
  11. Pay it forward – if you get an extra item that your kids’ can’t use pass it along to a back-to-school drive for someone else to use.

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Disclosure – I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Staples blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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