Back-to-School Savings You Can’t Afford to Miss

A little time spent shopping smart can yield a lot of savings on staples that will last you for several semesters.


Like holiday decorations hanging out in July, the bustle of back to school has had shelves stocked with supplies for weeks. From glue to shiny new lunchboxes to wide-ruled notebooks and over-the-top calculators, the lists seem to get longer every year my kids are in school. I know I can’t skimp on supplies, but I do know I can cut costs. And this is my game plan…

The best things in life are shipped free

Shop ‘til they drop—shipping—all hours, all stores, all sites. Most online retailers have a minimum purchase requirement before all the items in your virtual cart will ship free. And during this school-year-driven season, sometimes they will drop the shipping charge altogether. So if saving time, and gas, interests you this is definitely a shopping style to look into.

Weekend getaway—from sales tax

Nearly 20 states, as well as Washington D.C., offer tax-free savings during the month of August when most families are shopping for school supplie. My best advice? Shopping the Friday of your state’s tax-free weekend to avoid the craze of a Saturday crowd. Bring a master list and your favorite pen for marking things OFF to keep you on task. Take advantage of the savings and pick up a little something for you, too.

Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic supplies

From No. 2 pencils to laptops and loose-leaf paper (yes, kids still use old school supplies in school), there are savings to be had all about town—and online. Office supply and discount stores often advertise smaller budget items for pennies on the dollar. And deeper discounts, rebates and sometimes gift cards on larger items. Line up all of your kids’ lists and combine them into one master list before you step into the store so you don’t miss a thing.

Count on discounts

If it’s not on sale, BOGO [Buy One, Get One], shipped free or free with purchase – pass on it if you can afford to. Circulars, tweets, FB posts, sites, in-store and on-line specials are to be had. When it comes to back-to-school shopping I’m like a kid in a candy store. And no one is telling me no. Check to see if you can piggy-back discounts, too. Coupons from manufactures and in-store can offer significant savings.

Clothes the deal

Nothing beats the confidence a kid can get wearing a new outfit on the first day of school. I remember taking the tags off of my new Coca-Cola rugby (like only a child of the 80s would) and walking into class feeling like a million bucks. Don’t underestimate the power of a new shirt, dress or shorts. To find the best deals online and the discount codes that subtract dollars from what you’re doing, check sites like RetaiMeNot and CouponDivas. And do me a favor—let your child choose their own “first day” fashion. Because the look on their face when they pull on those clothes they so carefully chose is, well, priceless.

Make old school, new school

Last year’s lunch box and backpack might hold new appeal now that it’s been out of sight and out of mind for months. If a sibling swap is possible, do that too – so things seem new. Same goes for school supply standards. Pencil box still in stellar shape and hinges NOT held together by duct-tape? Reduce your shopping list and reuse, it’s recycling in its freest form. In short, search the house for last year’s stuff and give it a good once-over before you give in and buy everything new.

Now that you’ve been schooled on shopping for supplies, be sure to give yourself a little extra credit when you’re through…and what you choose is entirely up to you. But I’d get a pedicure.


About the author: Heidi Alger

Heidi Alger is the mother of two low-maintenance, high-energy kids under the age of 10. She offers financial guidance, budget tips and lifestyle advice keeping the challenges of modern military families in line, writing alongside an award-winning team at Pioneer Services. Her grandfather, a CW04, served in the Army Security and National Security Agencies during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Follow Heidi on Google+.

Contact: Heidi Alger


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