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School supplies and back-to-school shopping can really add up. Estimates are an average of $40 to $50 per student per year for school supplies, not including backpacks, clothes and shoes. This varies by grade level and area, of course. It can also increase if any special items are needed, such as scientific calculators. Wow! Do you budget for this? This is a huge expense, especially if you have more than one child!
It’s always a good idea to save money, but now it’s more critical than ever. Here are a couple tips to help your wallet while you prepare for school to start.
1-Get your school supply list as soon as you can. These are available on your school district website and often at stores that sell school supplies. This will help you know what to look for so you can snap things up when you see a good sale. Keep in mind, the supply list of today is much different than it used to be. In my day it was a couple of pencils, a box of crayons, scissors and some paper. Now, the supply list includes things like tissue, dry erase markers, ziplock bags and even baby wipes. As schools trim their budgets some of the supplies that used to be provided by the school are now provided by parents. One thing to consider is that most of these supplies will be pooled together and stored in the classroom. Don’t get the fancy folders if those will be pooled. Check with your school to find out which supplies will be grouped together and which ones will be exclusive to your student.
2-Watch the sale fliers NOW. Right now Walgreens has a buy 1 get 2 free promotion. Snap up whatever you can find on sale! Even better, combine it with a coupon. If your state doubles coupons, you might get FREE school supplies! I subscribe to thegrocerygame.com to get a list of what’s on sale, where to find the coupons and when you get the most bang for your buck.
3-Consider ALL sources when buying school supplies. Think about the local box store, like Walmart and Target, office supply stores, drug stores, like Walgreens and Rite-aid. Check out online deals, too. Your grocery store might even have the best deals!
4-DON’T buy all your school supplies in one trip. Stores rotate what’s on sale each week, hoping you’ll buy crayons this week then come back next week for paper. Beat them at their own game by only shopping from your list. This is time consuming, so you’ll need to balance your time vs. the savings.
5-If you see a good deal and you can afford it, consider buying extras to donate directly to your classroom or to a local charity. School supplies are always needed. This is especially easy if your child needs two of something and they are on sale in a buy 1 get 2 free situation.
6-Divide and conquer. If you see one store has several things on sale and another store across town has other needed things on sale, call up a friend with a child in the same class and each of you can double up. This will save time and gas money.
7-If you have the funds, consider buying two sets of some items so you can store one set at home. Why? Here’s an example: Your 5th grader is working on maps. The assignment is to color each state one of 4 colors with no two touching states the same color. (Can you tell this assignment still haunts me?) It will be very helpful for you to have colored pencils at home.
Some parents get really frustrated about back to school supplies, especially “the list.” One advantage to buying things at one time is nearly everything is on sale right now. If you got a letter every month about additional school supplies, you wouldn’t find sales, it would take lots more time and you would feel like you were being nickel and dimed all year long.
You might ask, does my child really go through an entire box of ziplocks every year? Some teachers alternate asking for those supplies. One year, they request zip locks and the next they request dry erase pens. Again, this is the pooling theory at work to spread the cost. If you are really strapped, you might see if you can send in those “extras” later in the year.
With that, grab your wallet, your supply list and your coupons and get shopping!
If you’d like to shop online, may I recommend my new Amazon store, ValueSchoolSupplies.com? Thanks for supporting MissMouthy.com!
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