1. Check your school supply list
This should always be your starting point. It’s easy to go out and buy a little bit of everything only to have it hanging around the house for months on end because nobody needs it. So remember – find out what your little ones need before you start making shopping lists.
2. See what you already have at home
Now you have your list of needs find out what you can cross off that list without even leaving the house. The more years your children have been at school the more likely it is you still have two packs of paper or a multi-pack of folders that you bought last year and were never used. Get the kids in on the action & have everyone pile up everything they have. We have often had 3 geometry sets, each with a broken or missing piece that have been cannibalized to make two good sets. Get creative and make it fun.
3.Set a budget & just as importantly, stick to it.
It’s easy to get carried away when things are ‘only’ $4 or $5 each – but that adds up very quickly. An especially easy way to run the cost up is with character items. I speak from experience when I say that the ‘Hello Kitty’ (or whichever character your kids are in love with at the moment) bag that they really really love & have to have may well be out of favour by the time spring comes around. Consider plain bags, folders, pencil cases etc and accessorise them with small stickers that can be swapped out when tastes change.
4. Shop around at different stores
It can be a pain – especially if you limited time in – but try to shop around. A favourite retailers trick is to get you in the door with a fantastic deal on one item and add a few cents here and there on other items. You assume because those packs of pens are so cheap, everything else must be too and end up no better off. If you can stand the extra time and effort (assuming you’re not driving 30 miles to save $3 of course!) it’s well worth shopping around.
5. See if your store price matches
You have to be prepared to be successful with this one. Go through the flyers and check out the cheapest prices. Then choose one store to visit. Large stores such as Walmart & Staples have price matching policies and you can often save a great deal this way. Don’t be afraid to ask! This one is great for food items as well – especially if you’re stocking up for lunches.
6. Don’t forget the consignment, thrift & dollar stores
Items like tissues or crayons & pencils can be a great deal at the dollar store. Clothes, bags, pencil cases and some sports equipment can be found in good condition and at a very reasonable price in the consignment & thrift stores. THey usually have new items on a regular basis and you can find some unexpected gems.
7. Shop online
Another good way to save is to shop online. A big advantage is that you can shop in your PJ’s when the kids have gone to bed but be careful. Check for hidden shipping costs, these can add up very quickly and before you know it the items were cheap but the shipping burst your budget.
8. Stock up on sale items
If you see pens for $1 a pack, grab a couple of extras – or if you’re in a position to, buy loads. Items that you know will need replacing through the year, like pens, pencils, erasers etc are worth stocking up on whenever you see them on sale. I don’t know about you but our boys go through so many pens I suspect that they are actually supplying the whole school.
9. Reusable items save a fortune in the long run
If you can buy a lunchbox / lunch bag and a ziploc type box for sandwiches etc you will save a fortune in brown bags and baggies. The same goes for buying a refillable water / juice bottle and ditching those cartons every day.
10. Buy early, oh and wait until the last minute
I know it’s contradictory but prices always seem to be lowest at the beginning of the back to school season and the end. We buy the items we must have at the beginning and hold off buying lots of items until the end of the season when the stores mark everything down. If I can buy 1 pack of paper for the first week of school and then scoop up the other 9 in the end of season sale – I will!