The majority of readers voted they would spend less than $250 on back to school clothes and supplies, less than half the national average. The National Retail Federation says parents with students in kindergarten through 12 will spend $549 this year. Tips to keep costs down:
1. Pare down any school supply list handed out by teachers. Ask what is truly needed and what can wait until you find it on sale.
2. Round up whatever school supplies you have from around the house. Hand me down ruler? You bet.
3. Pounce on sales. Every week Staples has a few things free – $.25. I got 15 pens and mechanical pencils for free at Staples by watching their flyers. Office Depot is currently offering a free backpack when you buy $10 worth of supplies. Deals vary by location so check your local flyer.
4. Skip the high tech gadgets unless truly necessary. A calling card can take the place of a cell phone. Dust off last year’s calculator unless a new model is truly needed. Consider buying a netbook instead of a laptop. Netbooks have lower prices but less fire power. For tips check out my computer-buying guide.
5. Take your kid shopping at a thrift store. I know of one in LA (Tween Scene) and I’m guessing others are popping up around the country.
6. Buy some clothes now but hold off on blowing your whole budget. Your kid may want something as soon as s/he sees what everyone else is wearing.
7. Call your favorite retailer and ask when their back to school sales are. Another good way to find out about back to school sales is by signing up for the retailer’s email list. Check if they have any coupons and ask what their loyal customer discount is. Hint, hint.
8. Take a stab at negotiating a discount, especially if you are buying a lot of items, are paying in cash, or are buying something opened or damaged. More detailed negotiating tips here.
9. Use your teacher discount everywhere you shop. Discounts may not be posted, so remember to ask. More on that coming.