Use upcoming clearance sales to get a headstart on the 2009-2010 school year! That's one of the frugal, back-to-school shopping ideas from the editors of FamilyCorner.com.
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Your child doesn’t go back to school for another month. When is the best time to start shopping?
“To be honest, the best time to start shopping was last year’s back-to school clearance,” says Amanda Formaro of FamilyCorner.com. “This year’s back-to-school clearance is a great place to stock up for next year.”
Most stores hold their annual school supply clearances in late September, and generally offer discounts of 50% to 90% on essential supplies such as notebooks and pencils. Going back to the store a second time for crayons and college rule paper might not sound like fun, but you’ll thank yourself next year.
…But don’t jump the gun.
It’s only natural to want to get your family’s school shopping behind you as quickly as possible, especially when money is tight. But keep in mind that you won’t know exactly what your children will need until they get supply lists from their teachers.
“It’s a good idea to wait and see which supplies your kids will really need,” says Formaro. “Oftentimes, parents buy their kids brand-new markers, scissors, and glue sticks only to find out that those items are provided by the school – and that they should have bought rulers, calculators, and storage boxes instead.”
So unless you find bargains too incredible to pass up, save yourself some frustration by waiting to do most of your shopping until after the first day of school.
Don’t cheap out where it matters…
Sometimes it pays to not go for the cheapest option on school supplies. Case in point: Backpacks.
“Backpacks tend to be among the more expensive back-to-school items, but it’s important to look at a backpack as an investment,” says Formaro. “A durable, quality backpack will cost more up-front, but will save you money in the long run by lasting through several school years.”
If you opt for this strategy, try to avoid backpacks with trendy cartoon or movie characters emblazoned on them. Instead, go for more traditional solid colors or plaids. After all, this year’s hot Dark Knight Batman backpack won’t be quite as cool in a few years.
…But do cheap out if it makes sense.
“Some kids just seem to have a knack for losing things – even big, bulky things like entire backpacks filled with books,” says Formaro. “And they often repeat this process more than once a school year.”
If this sounds familiar, investing in an expensive backpack or lunchbox doesn’t make much sense if it will disappear in less than a month. Instead, a great source for free supplies is special events and giveaways. Baseball game family nights, county fairs, health seminars, and street fairs often feature vendors giving away free backpacks, totes, and even clothing. The quality might not be the best, but there will be no pain when the items go missing or forgotten. Many restaurants and toy companies also have special offers – just keep your eye out for them.
Give older kids a taste of the “real world.”
If you have teenagers, consider giving them a budget – especially for clothes. They can choose all the items they buy, as long as they stay within their given limit.
“It’s amazing how kids get creative when they’re put in charge of their clothing budget,” says Formaro. “Suddenly, they understand what the word ‘designer’ entails and become more open to less expensive versions of the same look.”
This technique allows kids to have a sense of freedom (choosing their own wardrobes) while learning real-world budgeting skills. Just remember to gently remind them that what they’re buying needs to last the entire school year – and stand firm on rejecting all last-minute requests for more money.
Make the Internet your first stop.
Whether you’re looking to buy a cheap calculator or a laptop computer, checking online coupon and special deal sites is a must before you leave the house. These sites feature little-known special discounts, rebates, and other special promotions on a huge variety of products that you’d otherwise never hear of. Searching for items is simple and takes just a few minutes – and you could be rewarded with significant savings. Just keep in mind that you may have to buy some items online to take advantage of some promotions.
Some of our favorite coupon sites include UltimateCoupons.com, DealLocker.com, Bargainist.com, and Boddit.com, which is a search engine that aggregates special offers and deals from a variety of sites______________
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