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Back to School Savings: Seven Quick Tips for Saving Money on School Supplies

Aug 7, 2008
Unless you're careful, purchasing everything a child will need for the school year can really add up. Here are seven quick tips to help you save money and start the school year off right.

1. Start Early.
The biggest key to saving money is to start early. It's best if you can start planning as early as the end of the previous school year. Jot down a brief list of what your child really used during the previous school year so you know what to buy and what to avoid this time around. Set aside items, such as scissors, rulers, and lunchboxes, which your child may be able to reuse for the next school year. Cross those items off the official "school supplies list" before you get to the store.

2. One-Stop Shopping.
Shopping early will often minimize the amount of time you need to spend shopping. In July and early August, the selection of school supplies is at its peak, so you probably won't have to go to more than one store to find everything you need, and that will save you time, money, and gas.

3. Shop Online.
Consider the amount of money that your time is worth. It might be most efficient to do all of your supplies shopping online. Some major online office supplies stores offer discounts on school supplies in mid- to late-summer, and then you can often apply an additional coupon code ($30 off $150, for example) to save even more. You may even be able to get free shipping on these online orders, too. And when you shop online, you'll be less likely to pick up the non-essential items that your kids may beg for at the checkout counter.

4. Know When Your Local Stores Offer Discounts.
Some major department stores start discounting school supplies as early as the first part of July. Look for newspaper ads from your local discount superstores. You can also find good back-to-school deals at big-name office supply stores. Many times, these major chain stores will have supplies and deep discounts, but only until supplies run out. The same supplies can cost a whole lot more just a few weeks later. The next round of discounts typically happen in early August. Even if your child isn't starting school until September, it pays to shop early. You will find a better selection of school supplies if you get all your shopping done before mid-August.

5. Scoop Up Good Deals Whenever You See Them.
Look for special sales, such as stores that advertise supplies being sold for a penny per item. In the "off peak" school supply season, many stores will offer these deep types of discounts. Watch your newspaper for the circulars so you don't miss out on these great deals. Crayons, colored pencils, erasers and #2 pencils will last until you inevitably need them, so be on the lookout for bargains on these, and scoop them up whenever you see them.

6. Share a Two-for-One Deal.
Look for stores that offer great two-for-one deals on backpacks, lunch boxes and other big school supplies. If there aren't any two-for-one deals, you'll probably see "buy one get the second half off." If you only have one school-aged child you can still take advantage of these sales by splitting the purchase with one of your child's friends or buying the extra item and storing it for the following year. When it comes to pens, paper and crayons, it's normally best just to buy and stock up. These items will be used again and again by your child.

7. Ask Your Child to Help You Prioritize.
Older children can be pretty opinionated about what type of school supplies they want. They may be picky about the color, size, or any of a number of other factors when it comes to their supplies. The best way to avoid any future arguments is to have your child make a list of the most important items on their wants list. For example, have your child rank their top five purchases in order of preference. Assure them that you will do everything that you can to purchase the first item but that they may not be able to get everything on that list. This may make it easier when you can't find the perfect purple pencil holder or just the right backpack.

With a little planning and negotiating with your child, you'll be able to start the school year without dipping into your savings. Whatever you do, don't buy after school starts, when the prices tend to go up. Plan ahead, buy early, and save.
About the Author
Jamie Jefferson writes for Momscape.com and Susies-Coupons.com, where you can find the latest back to school coupons and office supply coupons.
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