The stores are filled with shiny new school supplies and my inbox and mailbox are stuffed with flyers promoting all the must-have items for the school year. It can be a bit overwhelming, which makes it easy to overspend. It took us a few tries but now the girls and I are seasoned vets when it comes to managing our back-to-school budget. In fact, it’s something we look forward to doing, rather than dreading.
Your Back-To-School Survival Guide
Here are some new and old tips to help you survive the back-to-school shopping season this year.
Take Advantage of Tax-Free Back-To-School Shopping
Every summer a select few states hold sales-tax holidays on school items from notebooks to laptops. If you are fortunate to live in one of those states, which sadly I do not, be sure to time your back-to-school shopping excursion to take advantage of this special discount.
- Alabama: August 7-9
- Connecticut: August 16-22
- Iowa: August 7-8
- Florida: August 7-16
- Louisiana: August 7-8
- Maryland: August 9-15
- Massachusetts: August 15-16*
- Missouri: August 7-9
- New Mexico: August 7-9
- Ohio: August 7-9
- Oklahoma: August 7-9
- South Carolina: August 7-9
- Tennessee: August 7-9
- Texas: August 7-9
- Virginia: August 7-9
*Massachusetts State Legislature has not yet approved the sales tax holiday, although it is expected to do so, but double-check first.
There are certain limits set by each State, so be sure to confirm what you can and cannot buy in your own state before you go shopping.
3 Ways to Save on School Supplies This Year
A few suggestions to help you keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
1. Host a Back-To-School Swap Party
If you’re like me, even when you carefully follow a list, you still end-up with a closet full of excess school supplies. Often times you can use them the following year, but sometimes your kids outgrow the supplies, not to mention their clothes. This is a great way to exchange new school supplies and gently used clothes with friends. Get a group of friends together who have kids of all ages, so everyone has a chance to both clean out closets and fill them with new-to-them things. You may even be lucky enough to take care of all or most of your back-to-school needs without even stepping into a store or spending a dollar.
2. Utilize Money Saving Apps to Increase Savings
Tanya shared some great money saving apps for groceries, retail and travel last week, and you definitely want to take advantage of them while you do your back-to-school shopping. A few additional apps to consider are:
- RedLaser whose QR code reader and bar code scanner find the best deals from thousands of local and online retailers.
- ShopSavvy alerts you of new prices and sales items and will even send you new coupons when they are available.
- Chegg offers significant discounts on textbooks and options to both buy or rent your books. Perfect for college students.
3. Ask for a Price Match
I’m a big believer in comparison shopping and finding compromises, but you do need to be mindful that your quest for the lowest price doesn’t end up costing you in both gas and time. Now you may need to visit a handful of stores to get everything you need, but whenever possible, ask for a price match versus running to another store for one item. Most stores, especially your big-box retailers, will honor your request with no fuss, which saves you both time and money so don’t be shy and ask for the price match.
Other Money-Saving Back-To-School Shopping Tips
I’ve written quite a few posts on back to school shopping and instead of repeating myself, I’m just going to highlight two posts. But first, I want to make sure you are familiar with my best advice: let your kids manage their back-to-school budget. You don’t need to do everything yourself. This is a fabulous teachable moment for them and something I’ve done with my girls for years. We learn so much every year, and best of all — the girls are becoming budget pro’s who know how to maximize their money.
Click on the images to go to the post.
Donate to Demonstrate Sharing
This is not a money-saving tip, but a chance to give back and share your good fortune. Sharing or giving is a core family value in our home and back-to-school shopping is another opportunity to demonstrate giving and to help families who are struggling. The girls look forward to going through their closets and selecting clothes for the donation box. They love knowing their favorite outfits that no longer fit will be squealed over and proudly worn by other young girls.
Consider contacting your school or place of worship to find out if there are any families you can help and offer to purchase their supplies for the school year. Make sure to involve your kids too. Most of us are blessed to be in a position where we can purchase both needed items and a few wants as well. It’s a good reminder for kids, especially if they struggle with those keep-up urges, to appreciate what they have and reduce feelings of entitlement.
Have you completed your back-to-school shopping yet? What tips or suggestions do you have?