For many parents, shopping for school supplies is another chore in an already packed schedule. It can be more fun to think of it as a traditional outing. It can also be a lesson for your keiki on spending wisely and saving. Listed below are more strategies for shopping wisely for school supplies.
How to save on back-to-school supplies
Summertime is NOT the best time to shop for school supplies. A lot of school supplies go on clearance in September, when the demand begins to taper off. The weeks after Labor Day you will see the price of school supplies drop dramatically. So, it is best to hold off on buying all the school supplies at once before school starts.
Read through the school supply list carefully. Knowing what your child will need and when means only buying what is needed at a particular time.
Shopping after Labor Day is a good practice for clothes and shoes, too. Retailers typically slash prices in September and October. A nice compromise is to buy one new outfit for the first day of school and/or set a limit (and budget) on the number of new clothes each child gets each year. Of course, this is greatly influenced by growth spurts.
Tip: Don’t overlook second-hand clothing stores—you will have more success if you start this habit early and practice what you preach by shopping for yourself at thrift stores. Honestly, as the small kid on the block, I wore hand-me-downs until I got a job and could buy my own clothes. I don’t remember feeling under-privileged. It’s just what we did.
Before you head to the store, “shop” your home. Look for “forgotten” supplies around the house. Check drawers, closets, backpacks, purses, and boxes—anywhere office or school supplies might be lurking.
Tip: By the way, anytime you are at business conference or consumer event throughout the year, pick up any free pens or pencils that vendors sometimes giveaway.
Remember, don’t buy everything on the school list during the first shopping trip. Schools typically list items a student will need for the entire school year. On the first trip, buy only the essentials (if any). Plan a return trip after Labor Day to pick up the rest.
Avoid impulse buys. Don’t buy anything NOT on the list. Resist impulse purchases. I tend to put impulse items on a list (right on my smartphone), promising myself I can buy it at a later date. Often by the time I shop again, the item has lost its appeal. Yeah, that’s why it’s called an impulse. You didn’t really need it, you just wanted it. Break this habit and you will save money, I promise.
Know your prices. You probably already know that stores drastically mark down prices on some items to get you into the store. These “loss leaders” are great deals for you. However, other items may be over-priced. So, check the flyers or online prices from several stores (Ben Franklin, Costco, Daiso, Don Quijote, Fisher Hawaii, Longs, Office Depot/Max, Target, Walmart, etc.) so you know what a bargain is and what is not.
Sign up for email newsletters or follow your favorite stores on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook). Companies often send their followers links to coupons and give advance notice of sales.
If there is a bulk purchase or BOGO deal, consider stashing supplies for next year. Or trade with other families: you buy the markers, they buy the paper, and you share.
If buying back-to-school items is putting a strain on your household budget, contact your school directly or Hawaii Salvation Army (salvationarmy.org). There may be donated supplies available for free for any family that needs them.
And if you are able, consider buying extra to donate to another family.
Consider taking the opportunity to teach your children about budgeting and take some of the decision-making stress off you. Consider giving each child a certain amount of money to be used for school supplies and tell her she can keep whatever is left over. This tactic can motivate your child to cost compare and look for the best deals. They may also decide they don’t need a new backpack and last year’s bag will do just fine!
Oh, make sure your child didn’t simply skip supplies you’ll have to buy later. Let them know if they forget anything, they’ll have to do without. A budget is a budget. (You’ll have to decide how harsh to be.)
We hope you find these tips helpful to shop wisely and reduce costs on school supplies. Have a good year!