10 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

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Living on the Cheap saves consumer money


Friday, July 12, 2013 – 

Summer goes by quickly – just like the money in consumer’s wallets once back-to-school shopping begins. July kicks off the second busiest shopping season of the year with the average family spending almost $700 on school-related items. Most parents are eager to find ways to cut back. While many clip coupons or buy generic, there are other creative ways to help fulfill the back-to-school list on a budget.


Here are 10 ways to save money on back-to-school shopping from the experts at Living on the Cheap:


1. Reuse and repurpose supplies – School supply lists don’t vary much from year to year. Print the list and see what you already have on hand. If you have supplies left over from last year, reuse them. Or personalize plain home-office supplies with stickers, photos or paint.


2. Set a budget and make a list – Before you shop, sit down with your kids to set a budget and make a list. Give each child a certain amount of money for school supplies and clothing, and tell her she can keep whatever is left. You’d be surprised how attractive last year’s backpack and discount clothing start to look. Including your children in the process will provide a valuable lesson in responsibility and a smoother shopping experience.


3. Clip coupons with the kids – Sale items matched with coupons save the most money. They can also be a test of patience, because the brand, size, type and quantity of the sale item and the coupon need to match. That’s where kids can help. Show them how to find the match-ups. Keep an eye on the weekly newspaper coupons and check Living On The Cheap’s page for printable school supply coupons each week. Shop at stores that accept competitor coupons to save yourself driving around.


4. Shop during tax-free days – Sales tax holidays are right around the corner. August is the most popular month for states to offer tax-free shopping tied to back-to-school shopping. Check out Living on the Cheap’s list of sales tax holidays for 2013.


5. Find consignment salesConsignment sales offer a great way to save money on kids’ clothes, letting you replenish their closets with gently used, good quality clothes without paying full price for items they will quickly outgrow. In addition to brick-and-mortar consignment shops, your town may have one-time events that set up in churches or other locations for a weekend. Before you shop, clean out your kids’ old clothes and bring them in for credit toward your purchase.


6. Host a clothing swap – Contact friends from the neighborhood, church, school or moms’ clubs who have children in a range of ages. Set up a time to meet, bring outgrown clothes and start swapping. Create a Facebook event to spread the word.


7. Remember thrift shops – Don’t forget stores like Goodwill, Savers and Salvation Army. The merchandise rotates frequently, so one day you may find nothing, but the next day you might find a gold mine of adorable clothes. Plus, these organizations donate money to nonprofit agencies in your community to help those in need.


8. Don’t skip big-name stores – Just because the original price is high, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a good deal at places like Children’s Place, Gymboree, Crazy 8, Macy’s or Kohl’s. You will never pay full price if you sign up for email lists to get advance notice of sales, follow the stores on Facebook or Twitter, look for discount codes online, clip coupons or use store cash. If you find an item that you’ve purchased is cheaper 14 days later, some stores let you bring in the receipt and collect the difference.


9. Create a shopping team and buy in bulk – Get together with other parents to create a back-to-school shopping team. Plan a fun day for the kids while the parents devise a strategy. You may even find it makes sense to buy in bulk at warehouse stores and split the costs.


10. Wait to buy – If your kid is begging for that absolutely-can’t-live-without item and it’s not within your budget, wait a few weeks. That item might be replaced by the next big thing or it might go on sale. Also check with the school and other parents to find out if you really need everything on the list the first day because it is likely to be cheaper after school starts.


Related stories from Living on the Cheap:

View all of Living on the Cheap’s back-to-school stories here.


About Living On The CheapLiving on the Cheap is a consumer news website that helps readers enjoy their hard-earned money by providing useful tools and tips for living well on less. The website is owned and run by more than 20 veteran consumer journalists and frugalistas who know a good deal when they see one. Living on the Cheap features smart, original, well-researched articles filled with actionable advice, plus the latest deals and freebies from national retailers and restaurants. The website’s audience spans the United States and is made up of consumers looking for deals, discounts and overall good value. Living on the Cheap is the flagship website of a national “cheap” network of 30-plus local sites. The network attracts more than 250,000 unique visitors monthly, with a combined reach of 43,200 Twitter followers and 41,300 Facebook fans, as well as communities on Google+ and Pinterest. Living on the Cheap…because it’s about thriving, not just surviving. Connect with Living on the Cheap on Twitter @CheapLives and Facebook LivingontheCheap.



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