(Family Features) An estimated 56
million students will be enrolled in elementary, junior high and high
schools across the nation this fall. While retailers eagerly embrace
the back-to-school season, many parents cringe as the costs add up
for school supplies, sporting equipment, electronics and new clothes.
Today’s tough economy makes it
challenging to invest in our children’s education and future, and
purchasing school supplies can be especially expensive. Stretch your
family’s back-to-school budget with these smart saving tips:
Assess Wants vs. Needs. Before
you leave the house, make a list of items you’ll need and be
realistic about prioritizing needs and wants. Do a complete inventory
of what supplies you already have at home. Sure, it’s fun to buy
all new, but if you just bought a new set of markers or a package of
folders last spring, you can probably hold off a few months before
Remember, too, that prime shopping
season is before school starts. Delaying non-essential purchases on
items such as clothing until after school is in session (such as
during or after the Labor Day holiday, when items are marked down)
can net big savings.
Budget, Budget, Budget. Once
your prioritized list is complete, determine what you can afford to
spend on each category – school supplies, electronics, clothing and
other. Use free online budgeting tools to help you stick to that
budget. Comparison shop, check out online deals and watch store
circulars for sales. Subscribe to receive emails, text or Twitter
alerts from your favorite stores for special sales. Some stores even
reward shoppers who “check-in” through social sites with more
In addition, some states also offer a
tax-free holiday for back-to-school shopping. Buying in bulk can save
money, too. Look for multi-packs of items like scissors, pencils and
Don’t forget that the annual
back-to-school shopping excursion can be a great money management
learning exercise for older kids. Share your budget with them, and
help them make selections to keep your checkbook on target.
Check for Student Discounts. By
having a student living in your home, you may be eligible for savings
and not even know it. Many manufacturers, especially software
publishers, offer education eligibility discounts, and some stores
offer price breaks for students, too.
For example, check out Academic
an online store that works with leading brands to sell deeply
discounted products. The website’s catalog of more than 20,000
education-focused products includes school supplies, full-version
software titles and consumer electronics at prices up to 80 percent
off retail value. Some items are at such deep discounts that you will
be asked to provide proof of academic eligibility – which for some
products is as simple as providing an .edu domain email address or
Surf the Net for Deals
The Internet is a great place to find
bargains. And many office supply and retail websites offer free
shipping. Use online tools that let you compare prices of multiple
websites to find the best deals. Don’t forget to search for online
coupon codes that can help stretch your dollar.
You can also save money by checking out
the many online auction and trade sites. Bid on larger bundles that
include several items on your list. You can further save money by
trading gently used clothing and supplies with other area families.
Look through the online forums of local freecycle and swap sites to
find “new to you” items.
With a little pre-planning and
discipline, you can manage through the financial stress and focus
instead on setting a positive tone to send your kids back into the
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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