Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My Back to School Shopping Plan

I live within walking distance to both Walgreens & CVS...so I can really take advantage of special promotions at both stores. It's great. I also stock up on supplies that we will need throughout the school year.

And the PTA at my kid's school has cheap, tax-free prices at their supply school.

Meanwhile, the release below has some solid tips on saving money during the back-to-school shopping season.

"Getting Kids Ready To Go Back To School
Doesn't Have To Break The Bank

With back-to-school shopping on the horizon this month, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast (CCCS) recommends that consumers develop a manageable budget plan to cut costs when preparing children and college students for a new school year.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service, a non-profit organization serving consumers in Palm Beach County and on the Treasure Coast, offers free confidential budget counseling, including an analysis of a family's financial situation and a forum to ask questions and resolve debt issues. A certified credit counselor can discuss income, debt, assets and liabilities and help the family develop a plan to manage finances.

For back-to-school, families should consider the following cost-saving tips:

Take advantage of sales tax holidays. In Florida, parents can enjoy tax-free shopping for many school supplies. From July 22 through July 30, shoppers will not pay sales tax on the following back to school items: Clothing and related items with a sales price of $50 or less, books with a sales price of $50 or less, and school supplies with a sales price of $10 or less. This can help your back to school budget go a little further.

Take inventory. Begin with a list of all back-to-school needs and expenses including supplies, equipment, clothing, and fees for sports, music and science labs. Next, check around the house for what the family already owns. Last year's book bag and supplies may be just what is needed to start the new school year. Most students will not need entirely new wardrobes. Clothes, shoes and coats are recyclable and can look like new outfits with inexpensive accessories. Well-maintained musical instruments and sports equipment are considerably less expensive than new ones.

Buy demos and display products. For big-ticket items like computers, accessories and other equipment, a store's display merchandise with small cosmetic blemishes offer great consumer savings and often come with warranties. According to The New York Times, almost $80 billion of excess or returned inventory piles up each year. American retailers and manufacturers realize they can recoup some of their costs by selling these products at a discount to consumers. Simply inquire to a store manager about the availability of these items for purchase.

Invest in smart plastics! Instead of paying for cell phone plans, consider phone cards. Also, consider pre-paid credit cards that allow an increase in credit limits as often as needed. Instead of paying for a car and insurance for college students far from home, it may be smart to establish a frequent flyer membership so they can earn points for traveling home.

Eat wisely on campus. Generally, it is both cheaper and healthier to pack a lunch than to eat at school food counters and off-campus fast-food restaurants. Deli wraps, cold cuts, cheese and veggie snack trays, and salads with grilled meat are easy to make and will keep in lockers or cars for a few hours. Consider investing in a food dehydrator to make fruit chips, fruit rollups and beef jerky.

Comparison shop. Sunday circulars and direct-mail coupons provide great updates on sales of trusted, name-brand items. Pay particular attention to sales expiration dates. If an item is not already on the shopping list of necessities, don't buy it, even if it is a great deal.

Shop online. Several national office supply stores are offering good online prices for school supplies. Look for free or inexpensive delivery.

Pay with cash, if possible. Set a spending amount and stick with it. Pay with cash when possible and leave the checkbook and credit cards at home to avoid temptations for unplanned and unnecessary purchases. If short on cash, some stores still offer consumers layaway plans for time needed to save up for purchases.

Use credit wisely. If using credit is absolutely necessary, then limit purchases to items that can be paid off in 90 days or less. Use a credit card with the lowest interest rate. Consumers should always remember that using a credit card is like taking out a short-term loan. If care is not taken to minimize charges and make payments on time, this short-term loan could become a long-term financial and credit disaster.

Prepare for next year. Start budgeting now for next year. Set aside money that is designated for back-to-school shopping. This way, the family will not be overwhelmed by unexpected costs that could lead to a financial crisis.

"Today's students often need more sophisticated supplies than their parents needed," said Jessica Cecere, president of CCCS. "The demands of their academic programs may require personal computers, calculators and expensive lab fees. Without careful planning, families may be forced to choose between their child's educational needs and household bills. Back-to-school sales, thrift stores and recycling last year's clothing and supplies are all supplements to the most important step a family can take: budgeting."

Contact CCCS at 800-330-CCCS or www.cccsinc.org or www.cccsenespanol.org.

CCCS is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services and is a member of the Better Business Bureau and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Governed by a community-based board of directors, CCCS is funded by creditors, clients, contributors and grants from foundations, business and government agencies. Service is available in English, and Spanish.

No comments: