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Optimize your Back to School Shopping Experience

Oct 12, 2007
So school's back in session once more and with it comes the ever increasing list of supplies that's required to get your child through another school year. Although costs vary from state to state, and even from school to school, they are usually something that does require budgeting because education is expensive!

While parents quake at the thought of how much they're going to need to pay out for paper, crayons and other associated "stuff", students themselves usually enjoy the annual shopping expedition, eagerly anticipating the latest movie merchandising trends, not to mention the added bonus of being able to spend money!

Optimize your back to school shopping experience by implementing the following strategies to make your budget go further.

1. Shop with a List

Discover what your child absolutely must have, and then check this with another source before accepting it as the "real" list. Check through your child's room and see what they already have -- yes they want new stuff, but it's good to know what you can pass on if money starts to run short! Now separate the list into 3 columns: must have, would like to have, and already have. Now you're prioritized and can budget accordingly. Negotiate with your child to prioritize the "would like to have" list -- they might even volunteer some of their own money if, for example, you won't make that "Transformers" backpack a priority purchase!

2. Shop Ahead or Behind the Pack

Stores want your money and if they have to discount their profits a little, they'll do so just to wring every last cent from your back to school budget! Take advantage of any early bird, or end of season sales to get more for your money. It could be that your child uses the same gym bag for the first few weeks, but at least they'll get a new one as soon as the stores start to discount their prices.

3. Shop Smart

Use any coupons and customer loyalty bonus entitlements that you have to bring the overall costs down. If you're using credit cards, try and put all the purchases on one card so that you can see how much the overall total expenditure is, and how you are repaying it. Remember to hold onto your receipts in case you're in a position of needing to return something.

4. Shop Focused

Remember that the store is not your friend. It's there to try to extract as much money as it can from you. If you're taking your child with you, and this can be a really cool day out for parent/child bonding if you do it right, make sure that you are both on the same page about what you are buying before you leave home! Explain that you only have a set budget and if something costs more than you've allocated, then something else will be missed off -- probably something they really want! The stores will have displays of really expensive non-essential items that are going to tempt your child to try and increase your budget, but hold tight to what you've agreed and remind them that if you buy the displayed item, then you can't afford the other item. Don't allow the store to knock your focus, stick to your list and you'll be fine!

There are a number of ways to cut costs with back to school shopping, such as surplus stores, online auctions, and even thrift stores, but at some point you'll find yourself having to go to the mall for some items, so make sure that you use the above strategies to get the most from the budget you have.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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