I was in Target one day picking up a few items when I saw a mom with an overflowing cart of school supplies. Ugh…is it that time already? For a moment I felt guilty because I’m always the slacker mom who sends her kids off to school with barely the essentials and does her best to catch up by the end of September. But as I watched this woman negotiate with her 7-year-old who was throwing a temper tantrum about a lunchbox, I was reassured that my way of back-to-school shopping works just fine for me.
I may not get EVERYTHING on the supply list…and I certainly don’t buy it all on time. But I’m willing to bet we spend less money than some other families. The National Retail Federation estimates the average family spends $669 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics during the back-to-school shopping season from July through September. That’s a lot of notebooks!
Here are a few of my personal tips for saving money – and saving your sanity – when it comes to back-to-school shopping.
7 Rules for Thrifty Back-to-School Shopping
1. Go Solo. I know it’s tempting to make the back-to-school shopping trip a special event to help children get excited about the start of a new year. But I personally haven’t found shopping with my kids to be effective. I spend less time and less money when I make a list and knock it out on my own. Of course, I need the children with me to buy shoes and some clothes, but the supplies I can do on my own. When I do take them with me, I give them a budget and let them use their own money if they want something more expensive.
2. Wait and See. There’s no medal for completing your back-to-school shopping before the first day of class. In fact, I find there are always a few teachers who add to the supply list in the first couple of weeks. And there are often better sales later in the season. Last year I waited so long to buy my daughter safety goggles for science lab that she ended up getting a hand-me-down pair from another student. Gotta love a resourceful child!
Oh, and when it comes to clothes, I most definitely don’t buy a new fall wardrobe in August. Why? Because it’s still 98 degrees outside and by the time the weather cools off enough to wear jeans, my kids will have undoubtedly had a growth spurt. [Read more...]