Affordable Back to School Shopping (for clothes and supplies)

Amy Hannold,

Retailers know that the back to school shopping season is their second best selling season, second to Christmas season. Statistics say that the average family will spend $530 for back to school merchandise. Shoppers; the longer they have the merchandise out, the more you’ll spend overall during the back to school season.

How can we counter these tactics and spend wisely? It begins with organization. Attain the required school supply list for each child. Review it and look around your home for what you might already have. You may find that last year’s backpack is still intact and you have many of the smaller items in your home supply closet. (What, you don’t have a supply closet? This is the time to start one!) Take stock of your children’s closets. Note what is about to be too small or too worn for fall wearing. Arm yourself with a portable list of sizes, required supplies and other needs. Have it with you when you shop and cross off purchased items. Knowing what you have avoids over purchasing, saving you money.

Once you know what you need, scour the ads. Consider shopping at your local thrift store, dollar store, or yard sales – comparing those prices to new, retail prices. At the major retailers, ask for additional promotions such as loyalty cards, clearances, and price matching opportunities. Compare retail online promotions; get on their mailing lists. Office supply stores may offer you the best deal if you’re willing to buy in bulk. Team up with friends to share in the cost and divide the supplies down to what each of you need.

Much of the comparison shopping is done for you when you read weekly posts by other shoppers and bloggers. They’ll list for you where to get the greatest deals. Choose a week that works for your schedule and your budget – and shop prepared:

Back to school shopping can be a learning experience for your child. Together, determine a budget. You may offer your child a basic supply budget and ask them to pay for “extras” or “upgrades” they desire. If they’re of the age where they can financially contribute to the cost, it’s a good lesson in the mileage of a dollar (and affording wants vs. needs).

Backpacks are the most common purchase, for all ages. Young children can probably see the year through just fine in a cute, character-decorated backpack. When buying a backpack for older children, it may warrant the purchase of a sturdy, multiple year backpack. All advice available encourages parents to save on the small stuff and spend more on the backpack. REI and JanSport offer warranties on their backpacks. Opt for solid colored, classic styles which won’t be “unhip” next year. Before you purchase a backpack, know the storage space your child will have at school. If you’re concerned about the ergonomics; which features of a backpack will ensure comfort for your child, visit here:

Affordable outfits for back to school can be found in the same method as shopping for other supplies. Realize that following the buying rush and promotions of summer will be followed by many, many clearance opportunities once school has started. Purchase an outfit or two, to recognize the exciting start to school, and then wait for those discounts between fall and holiday shopping to complete the list.

You can start a network of new friends and appreciative neighbors when you help your school organize clothing swap. All families are looking for clothes, and many have good, wearable clothes to exchange. It’s a great way to make new friends, finding people who have children a size larger or smaller than your own – and renew this opportunity in March, when we’re all again changing seasons and sizes.

When shopping for clothes, stick to classic items which will wear well as long as they fit. Purchase smaller accessory items or fun items which dress up an outfit. Once clearances occur, buy within your budget items which you can set aside for the next size or season.

Get together with friends in the quest to get the best deal. There is power in numbers, and getting those numbers in your favor will leave you enough money to splurge on treats to celebrate the school days ahead.

Upcoming Article: Back to School Shopping; it’s not just for the classroom. We’ll discuss what you can get now, to give and use at great prices for occasions to come!

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2 Responses

  1. There's a new free service at which is perfect for back to school shopping, especially last-minute b2s shopping because it shows you what's in-stock now at schools in your area so you can just go pick up what you need!

    Moms love it to compare prices online and then shop offline.

  2. Great tips! The clothing swap concept propelled me to start my own business because I couldn't find fellow swappers with girls that were bigger than my daughter.

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