7 Ways to Save When Sending Your Kids Back to School

While there’s still plenty of summer left to enjoy, the upcoming school year is fast approaching. That means it’s time to start thinking about back-to-school shopping and the many expenses that come along with stocking your children up on school supplies, clothes, and gear for the upcoming year.

In 2013, the National Retail Federation estimated that families with school-age children spent, on average, $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies, and electronics. Unfortunately, back-to-school shopping is a necessary expense. However, you do have the power to lessen the cost. Ready to take some pressure off your wallet? Here are seven ways to save.

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1. Shop your home first

Before you head to the store, take time to scope out the supplies you already have lurking in your drawers, cabinets, and closets, Kiplinger suggests. There’s a good chance you’ll find at least several items, including extra notebooks and pencils, in brand-new condition. It’s also important to have your kids try on clothes to see what they have, what they need, and what still fits. If they haven’t grown much over the summer, don’t splurge on a new wardrobe. Wait until they grow out of the clothes they have.

2. Do one-stop shopping at a store that price matches

Many stores, including Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max, honor price-matching policies, meaning if a different retailer has a better price on an item, they’ll match it, according to All You. Here’s what to do: Prior to school shopping, take time to sit down and scope out all of the store circulars, writing down where you see the best prices.

Then, stop by a store that price matches, bringing with you all of your marked circulars so you know what prices you’d like the retailer to honor. Not only will you get the best available deals, but you won’t have to waste gas money or time stopping by more than one place.

3. Check out resale stores

This is the easiest way to buy your kids more for less. There are, of course, the usual thrift stores that are worth checking out, such as Goodwill and locally owned shops, but there are also great online consignment stores, including thredUP and Moxie Jean, per U.S. News & World Report.

These stores offer a wide selection of cheaply priced, gently used clothing for kids. If you look hard enough, there’s a good chance you can find new items. The best part? If your kids have outgrown some of their clothes, these sites typically let you trade in or consign items for credit, which equals even more savings.

4. Stick to your list

It’s easy for you and your kids to fall prey to the fun assortment of back-to-school supplies decorating store aisles. However, don’t get talked in to purchasing glammed-up locker supplies and pricier-than-normal notebooks. Stick to the list you have, and have a budget in mind before entering a store.

Even better? Organized Home recommends using your list as an exercise in financial education. Children often get into the “buy me this, want that” mode, so it’s a great learning experience to teach them about needs, budgeting, and compromise.

5. Shop early and shop late

Focus on loss leaders, which are products retailers offer at prices below their retail value as a way to lure you into the store, beginning in mid-July. If you can pick up some of the marked-down items you’re guaranteed to need, such as notebooks, pencils, crayons, and folders, you’ll be able to save a decent amount, according to Organized Home.

Once you have those items, wait as long as you can to buy the other supplies your children need. As school draws closer, retailers will begin to mark things down in an effort to get rid of them. This is a great time to stock up on items your child will near year-round, including erasers, markers, and composition books.

6. Buy used or rent

Textbooks are extremely expensive. However, you can lessen the cost by purchasing used books or by renting them. You should also think about buying refurbished tech items, such as computers, which are gadgets that have been restored to like-new condition.

Often, refurbished items have a one-year warranty and cost half as much as the original price, Kiplinger reports. Refurbished computer tablets and other tech items can usually be found online at Apple, Best Buy, Dell, Tiger Direct, and Walmart.

7. Save on backpacks

Here’s another item that can easily make a large dent in your budget. It doesn’t help that kids usually want a flashy, name-brand backpack. However, Rather Be Shopping suggests avoiding big name brands and character-themed backpacks; they’re often overpriced and not worth the extra cash.

Instead, keep an eye out for durable backpacks, such as Timberland, Rockland and Embark. Look for sales, too. JanSport and NorthFace products are sometimes marked up to 25 percent off.

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