It’s that time of year for back-to-school shopping. Here are some tips from at least a dozen money experts and parents who are veteran back-to-school shoppers about how to save from my paper, The Miami Herald:
hitting the stores, take inventory of what you already have. You may
not need as much underwear — or pens — as you thought.
wants from needs. This is true year round, of course, but never more
important than during the back-to-school crunch. Say no to the special
pencils because they cost twice as much as the regular ones.
recycle, recycle. If last year’s book bag is still holding up, don’t
buy a new one. Uniform shirts still fit? If they’re in good shape,
don’t replace them. Don’t be sucked into the annual consumption
- Make a list and check it twice — and we’re not
talking about the supply list schools hand out. This is YOUR list about
other essentials. Assign a maximum dollar figure to items so you don’t
blow your budget. This way you’ll avoid impulse shopping.
the consignment stores, thrift shops and garage sales. You’d be amazed
at what you will find in gently worn, fashionable clothing.
department store ads and Sunday newspaper advertising sections before
hitting the stores every week. Ennen likes to stock up on Staples’
one-cent specials every week. "For example, this week they had folders
on sale for a penny, limit 20. If it is something that we use regularly
with a limit, I’ll have my husband go with me so that we both can
purchase the maximum amount.”
- Buy educational staples
year around to catch the best sales — and to help distribute the
expense over several months. From Villamizar: "I’ve got pencil boxes at
50 cents and backpacks for $9.99 stashed away for when they’re
needed.” She loves the clearance bins at Office Depot.
you shop with the kids, set the ground rules up front. Tell them what
you’re shopping for, how much you’re willing to pay and stick to your
guns. This might even serve as a teachable moment about budgets.
until September to buy school uniforms if you already have enough to
get you through the first few weeks. Some stores start their deep
discounts in September. But you risk not being able to find your
- Look for special deals online. There are
coupons you can print from websites to use at a bricks and mortar
location or to apply for a web purchase. Some say online purchases have
advantages. Ennen buys items from Wal-mart online, ships them to store
and picks them up there. This saves her on shipping charges and time
spent in line. It also guarantees quantity and sizes.
your fingers do the comparison shopping. Instead of using gas in your
car, click on comparison shopping sites such as Shopzilla and Bizrate
to find the best deals. Also, www.ShoppingQueen.com lists the best weekly school supply deals.
you absolutely must charge it, then use a credit card that that offers
rewards. Better yet, use one that will help you pay for college.
Fidelity Investments partners with American Express to funnel rewards
into a 529 college savings account. Futuretrust Mastercard deposits up
to a 10 percent rebate into a tax-free college account as well.
around for a uniform exchange at your children’s schools. You can
benefit from someone else’s hand-me-downs. Also, check out the
MomsMiami Swap Your Stuff forum and other sites like www.zwaggle.com, online communities that help family swap goods.
you’re truly strapped, ask for help at your child’s school. Many have
gently used uniforms donated by students who have graduated. Principals
also have other discretionary funds to help needy families. Business
partners often contribute as well. Ibiley, for instance, donates 5
percent of the company’s sales to its schools, supplying them with
purchase vouchers that can be used by needy parents at its store.
your ear to the ground for special deals. J.C. Penney at Miami’s
International Mall is having its own tax-free week — actually it’s
offering a 7 percent discount — Aug. 2-11.
- Hit the street
fair circuit for freebies. Perhaps the best one for school-oriented
items may be The Children’s Trust Family Expo! on Saturday Sept. 13
from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. outside Arnold Hall at the Miami-Dade County
Fair and Expo. In addition to the goodies handed out at booths, the
Expo will provide 1,000 book bags with some school supplies to the
first 1,000 school-age children. Other community organizations will
also be handing out book bags and supplies to needy children.
your kid is headed for college, take an active role in textbook
shopping. It’s an enormous expense that shocks most parents. Check out
the used-textbook sites, but also try places like StudentMarket.com,
which sells furniture and dorm room supplies. StudentMarket provides a
free service that compares new and used textbook prices among competing
How are you saving money on back-to-school items?
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