For those of us who still have the little ones (or bigger ones) still in school, it's never too early to start on your "back to shopping." Usually, back-to-school promotions begin the instant July 4th's fireworks cease to glow! So, fear not, and hang on to your wallets! With the rise of "back to school" promotions as a two-month marketing exercise for retailers, coupled with cash-strapped school districts, we've got you covered, because it can definitely be a tough job to get the kids outfitted without breaking the bank.
Try these school shopping tips to save money, time and your sanity when shopping for back to school needs.
Get "in the know" before you go
Before checking so much as a single back-to-school sales flyers, you need to know two things: 1. What you need. 2. What you already have on hand.
What's on the list? No need to scrabble through cluttered drawers for last year's handouts! Local discount and office supply stores now feature checklist kiosks for nearby schools; school websites are another good source for supply lists. Download or grab each kid's checklists, then scour the house for items already on hand.
Shop at home first - and set up Supply Central
Any item already on hand is a bonus freebie, so check the house for rulers and protractors, pencils and binder paper.
Set aside a supply stash. One way to conquer the "where is it?" chaos: designate a box, shelf or covered records box as School Supply Central.This tip will serve you well throughout the year the year. Find that stash of 9-cent boxes of crayons or a few packs of binder paper from last summer's shopping spree? Tuck them into the box, and the kids will know where to find new crayons when they need them in November.
Stick to your list - and your budget
School supply aisles look like toy departments these days, and kids have big "gimme" eyes for school-day flash and bling. Shop from your list to keep back-to-school spending within budget.
Better, use a list as an exercise in financial education. Children, as natural consumers, are easy prey to "buy-me, buy-me" pressures, so smart parents set limits during this time of year.
Once you have an idea of your child's true needs, establish a budget amount, and create a learning experience.
Back-to-school "loss leaders" (products offered at prices below their actual cost to entice you into the store) begin to pop up in discount stores and office supply stores mid-July. If you can pick up loss leaders for items you know you'll need - like lined notebook paper, pencils, crayons and report folders - you'll spare the budget for big-ticket buys.
While shopping, keep your eyes open. These days, just about every retailer wants a piece of the back-to-school action. School supplies pop up in the oddest places, like crafts stores, dollar stores and supermarkets. Shop off the beaten path for good prices!
If time isn't as free as you'd want it to be...shop late!
While nobody wants to be caught dead dragging multiple children into the crowded school supply aisles the weekend before school opens, a short week later will see the same merchandise marked down to clearance prices - and no crowds. That's the time to stock up on the basics that will be needed all year: binder paper, composition books, spiral notebooks, pencils, erasers, crayons and markers.