Ever feel like you’re spending a small fortune to get your kids ready for school each year? You’re not wrong.
By Mara Strom, Kosher on a Budget
In 2017, the Huntington Bank Backpack Index, an annual index chart that tracks the average cost of back-to-school supplies, found that parents spend an average of $662 per elementary school student, and over $1,000 per middle and high school student.
That’s more than a lot of mortgage payments – especially if you have two or three (or four or five or six) children.
Fortunately, this season doesn’t have to break your bank account. In fact, you can get by for just a fraction of those costs (one year, I spent just under $14!) when you follow these six tips.
Sure, you may not feel like shopping for school supplies until the week before classes start. But the retailers aren’t waiting around for you!
They begin their back-to-school sales the first week of July. Everything from pencils and scissors to backpacks and laptops will get marked at some time before the end of August.
Which means, if you wait to shop until August 25th, you will have missed out on six or seven weeks of rock bottom prices.
In other words, if you want to get the very best bargains, you need to be willing to start early.
Notice that I said “start” early, not “finish” early?
That’s because the very best deals will be released to us a few at a time throughout these two months of back to school sales.
The cheapest prices on markers and pencils, for example, may pop up in early July, but the best backpack prices may not hit until late August.
Fortunately, you are starting early, which means with a little patience you will have plenty of time to score all the best deals.
Know Your Prices
Starting early and being patient means you’re shopping in the right window and frame of mind to snag those deals.
But with week after week of sales, how do you know that the crayons are priced right this week – and won’t go even lower next week?
Enter the price book! With a paper and pen (or smartphone), you can easily track the rock bottom prices of school supplies (or anything else) – and which store to find them at.
Since back to school sales are so frequent (and so profitable) during this season, I focus only on identifying my ‘rock bottom prices.’ That way, if Office Depot puts scissors on sale, I can easily check to see if they’re at my “buy now price.”
To save you some time, I have made my personal Back to School Price List public, which you can grab a copy of OVER HERE.
Don’t Duplicate Your Efforts
The last day of school is the same for us every year: The kiddos always come home with overflowing backpacks.
There are projects, notebooks and textbooks that they used throughout the year. And there are also tons and tons of school supplies – some that they never even touched.
I sort through all the supplies and those that are still in passable condition get saved in Rubbermaid tubs. If those items are on the next year’s lists, I cross them off so I don’t duplicate our efforts (and expense).
Shop Tax Free Days
Many state and local governments offer tax-free weekends, aimed at back-to-school shoppers. Check out this list of tax-free shopping dates to find out when your state is participating, and which items are included.
If you have bigger ticket items on your list – from clothing and backpacks to computers and tablets – this is a great time to shop for them.
Keep your eye out year-round
While July and August are prime back-to-school shopping months, you can actually find great deals throughout the year.
September, for example, features a plethora of school clearance sales. Lands’ End often has backpacks for as low as $10, so keep your eyes peeled. And the sales continue year-round; I have found great deals on printer paper in February – and computers in May.
Provided you have room to store your bargain finds, this is a great way to reduce the cost – and stress – of back to school shopping.
Kosher on a Budget author, Mara Strom, may be frugal, but she knows that saving money requires a lot more than just pinching pennies. It’s her mission to help her followers save on what they need – like groceries, so they can splurge on what they want. After living in Overland Park, Kansas and Cleveland, Ohio, Mara, her husband, and three children recently moved to Israel, where they’re learning a whole new system for bargain hunting. Despite the distance, she still keeps her finger on the pulse of all the American deals, including back to school sales. Connect with Mara on Facebook or Instagram.