Ah, back to school supplies. You’ve come out of hiding, the harbingers for what’s to come. The S word is upon us…School. For my kids, it’s like a curse word. They don’t want summer to end. Me too. I’ve enjoyed the relaxed schedule and lack of franticness that usually accompanies the hustle and bustle school pace.
Ugh, we cat put it off any longer. It’s time to get those school supplies. We knew this day was coming, kind of like knowing that Christmas is December 25. With the average price of back to school supplies now well over $ 100 per kid, it’s easy to see why you would need to plan ahead and budget. According to National Retail Foundation’s Back-to-School Spending Survey, the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school needs.
So here are my back to school supplies hacks for stretching your budget farther:
1. Reuse supplies.
I have more kids’ scissors in my house than I have hands to use them. That makes no sense! OK, I don’t mean to send a box of half used crayons where every 3rd one is broken or missing. But have a scavenger hunt in your house to find and reclaim school supplies that have been what I call “gently used” and still have a lot of life in them. For example, book covers, pencils and pens, notebooks, notebook paper leftover in old notebooks, etc. You will still have to buy plenty of new stuff so rest easy-your kids won’t be deprived of that back to school shopping experience.
For my daughter last year, she needed a new backpack. There are plenty of backpack retailers to be sure, but she had her sights set on a Vera Bradley one. It wasn’t outrageously expensive, so we got it for her. (FYI: find a Vera Bradley store and save 40%-70% on products!) My rising 4th grader’s request last year? New lunchbox with camouflage theme. Done! It gets tricky as they get older, as many of them will request iPads or laptops. Heck, my daughter HAD to have an iPad for the school curriculum. But when you know that a big ticket item is on the horizon, budget for it. That will help you spread out the damage so you don’t get bit by the back to school monster Target bill.
3. Shop on your Tax Free Weekend
Here in SC, Tax Free Weekend is August 7-9. Items qualifying for no sales tax (6%) include “clothing, clothing accessories, footwear, school supplies (e.g., pens, pencils, paper, binders, notebooks, books, bookbags, lunchboxes, and calculators), computers, printers and printer supplies, computer software” and many bed and bath products.
States that offer Tax Free weekends/weeks include Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. Naturally, you have to weigh the savings with the possibility of busy crowds and less selection. I try to shop on Friday, avoiding Saturday and Sunday when I take advantage of tax free time.
4. Take inventory before you go. This is especially true for clothes shopping. Have a closet emptying party and take stock of what fits and what has been outgrown. Donate the ones that don’t make the cut right then and there instead of having the bags accumulate in your garage like some mom I know (ahem, me). Our school has a uniform exchange for outgrown school clothing.
5. Shop Around. I’m less likely to do this one, especially with the kids in tow, but it will save you money if you strategize which stores have the best deals on the items you need. Check out the website Passion for Savings, which makes it easy by providing a list of all the retailers’ pricing all ready for you! And don’t forget online retailers like I tend to do. You may just find the best deal online and shop from the comfort of home or your office!
Got any other tips or success stories? I’d love to hear them!
Good luck shopping!