Believe it or not, the back-to-school season is quickly approaching. Depending on where you live, students might be returning to the classroom in just a week or two. That means it's time for some back-to-school shopping. It's a rite of passage for many families as they prepare to send their children off to school for another year.
According to the National Retail Foundation, the average family spent $635 in 2013 on back --to-school shopping. That might seem like a lot of money, and it is, but it covers items from clothing to supplies. If you need to do some back-to-school shopping, these tips will help prevent you from breaking the bank in the process.
Use loss leaders:
A loss leader is when a retailer is willing to take a loss on a particular item in the hopes of getting people to spend more on higher margin items. Loss leaders are quite common in late summer and early fall as retailers know many families are getting ready for the school year. This can especially be true for school supplies.
Look around the house:
If children are old enough, it is possible they have supplies leftover from the previous school year. Many of these supplies can be reused, especially if they're new or unused. This does not apply to all supplies since items like glue sticks can dry out, but many others can be repurposed.
Shopping for clothes can be expensive, regardless of age. Instead of going to the local department store, consider shopping secondhand to save big. This approach can vary by location, but it's possible to find even new clothes for a fraction of the price by looking at the local Goodwill or secondhand clothing store.
It might seem like most back-to-school shopping should be done in person, but the Internet makes shopping for many needed items fairly simple. The obvious choice would be shopping on Amazon, but there are many other options available such as PriceGrabber and Retailmenot. This can open up possibilities like price matching or special deals that can be especially helpful with multiple children.
Try the Dollar Store:
The Dollar Store is often thought of as only for things around the house. However, many Dollar Stores sell school supplies and office products for only a buck. This strategy can be a great option for stocking up. Many grocery stores also offer similar pricing on supplies so don't count them out as an option.
Stick to the list:
Whenever shopping is involved, sticking to a list helps you stay on budget. Back-to-school shopping is no different. Instead of veering off to buy that expensive item, be disciplined and stick to the list. With so many items to buy, going off the list can add up quickly when you're going back to school shopping.
The problem with kids is they grow...a lot. They can grow out of clothes that they only wore once. Instead of buying brand new clothes, consider trading with other families who have different aged children of the same gender. This can work with supplies as well in certain situations.
Buy out of season:
In many areas of the country, school children can wear light clothing into the fall. If that is the case, take advantage of department stores selling summer clothing at steep discounts as they change their seasonal offerings. This strategy can be a great way to save a significant amount on clothing for the year. Also, remember many retailers go through the same practice at the end of winter.
Use social media:
It is common knowledge that many retailers have adopted social media to attract customers. Those retailers know parents are looking for deals on back-to-school items and will use social media platforms to send out special deals, coupons or offers for their fans. This will vary, of course, by the retailer, but it could be a great way to save extra on something that was already going to be purchased anyway.
Using coupons is a given when saving money on shopping, especially for back to school items. There are many ways to find coupons. In some cases the retailer will mail them out, but often times the Sunday paper or the store's website can provide prime coupon-hunting ground.
Back-to-school shopping can be fun, but also expensive. Using some of these tips can make it less stressful on the wallet.
John Schmoll is the founder of Frugal Rules, a finance blog that regularly discusses investing, budgeting and frugal living. He is a father, husband and veteran of the financial services industry who's passionate about helping people find freedom through frugality.
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