Stretching the Dollar While Back-To-School Shopping
By: Lynette Baker, Director of Marketing
Back-to-school time can be bittersweet for parents and kids
alike. For kids it means an end to the care-free days of summer.
And for parents it means an expensive annual tradition. But
back-to-school shopping doesn't have to break the bank. By planning
ahead, there are plenty of ways to be a smart shopper and save.
RethinkingDebt.org suggests the
following tips for parents as they kick-off back-to-school
- Begin with a plan. Start by taking an
inventory of what you currently have at home and talking with your
kids about what they will need. Use the school's supply list as
your reference and stick to your list of essentials.
- Clip coupons and be on the lookout for sales.
Coupons mean money in your pocket. Be sure to check out the weekend
newspaper circulars because stores will be advertising big sales.
Study them and compare prices on different items to get the best
bang for your buck. Check to see if your state has a back-to-school
tax-free shopping holiday and use that time to do your
- Stay on budget! Develop a budget and stick to
it. Or, limit your kids' spending with a pre-paid gift
card. You can monitor where kids shop and limit spending amounts
with pre-paid gift cards, which nearly every retailer offers for
both in-store and online purchases. This is also a great
opportunity to teach your older kids about responsible spending
habits. Let them do the comparison shopping and point out if they
get the more expensive item, they will have to cut back in other
areas. Not only will they learn about smart shopping, they will
value what you buy for them much more.
- Remember kids grow quickly. When shopping for
clothes, look for articles of clothing that are basic and never go
out of style. You can even buy a couple of sizes too big to keep in
the closet for a later time. Buy items on the sale rack, but be
mindful of the store's return policy. Head to outlet malls and
discount stores. Purchase items that allow for kids to grow such as
blouses and shirts with long tails, as well as pants with elastic
waistbands and overalls.
- Buy in bulk. Buying supplies like pens or
notebooks in large quantities can save you money in the long run.
If the quantity is too large, see if you can split the cost and the
items with another parent. Consult neighbors and friends who have
completed the grade your child is entering to make sure you're
getting the right items.
- Avoid the parking lot and shop online. Save
time and money. Stores often put their best sales online and it's a
great way to compare prices. With access to countless stores at
your fingertips, you can keep track of your spending and cross
items off of your list in no time. However, beware of identity
theft and credit card fraud. Protect yourself by making sure the
online transactions are secure. When in doubt, pick up the phone
and call. Most online retail sites also have toll-free
- Hang onto your receipts. Return items that
don't fit or won't get used. Beware of the return policy as some
stores put a limit on how long you can wait before returning an
item. If the item goes on sale after you purchase it, ask the store
to give you credit for the difference.
- Delay if you can. You don't need to buy
everything before school starts. Once kids see what others are
using and wearing, they always seem to have some new ideas about
what they need. The sales at the stores usually extend past the
first day of school so you can still benefit from them.