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Save on Back to School Shopping

It's August. Although the kids are still body surfing at the beach and diving into backyard pools, it's also time to prepare them for the coming school year. Shopping for supplies provides a wonderful opportunity to:

  • help build their enthusiasm
  • teach them about responsible spending and budgeting

Follow the tips below to make the most of your back to school spending plan and ensure your child has everything they need to start the year off right.

Talk with teachers.
Contact the school to find out if pre-assembled supply kits are available for purchase. Kits may be more affordable than purchasing items on your own.

Ask teachers what supplies will be available in the classroom (e.g., pencil sharpeners, construction paper). You may not have to purchase those items.

If the recommended supply list is too extensive or it compromises your budget, teachers may help you determine which items can be purchased later or not at all.

Ask the school for meal plan details and pricing. It may be more nutritious and affordable to "brown bag" it.

Make a list.
A list will help you:

  • get organized
  • keep track of deals/purchases/spending
  • stay within your budget

Search through store fliers, store websites and social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) to find the best deals. Add store names, sales dates and other details to your list.

Once you know where you want to shop, plan your route to save gas and time.

Involve your child.
Shopping can be fun and help kids get excited about the new school year. Allow them to participate by selecting clothes, supply colors and lunch boxes.

For non-essentials that may be beyond the budget, talk with your child about using their own money. Discuss how their purchase will impact their savings and ability to buy other items on their wish list.

Shop at home.
Any supplies that are in good shape can be used again. Recycle!

Your child can help. Make a game of gathering supplies. If you have notebooks or binders in working order, have fun hiding last year's marks and scratches with do-it-yourself decorating projects.

Search for free supplies.
There may be free school supply resources in your area - from backpack drives to local charity programs. Learn more about how to find local programs.

Check thrift and consignment stores.
Younger children often outgrow clothes before they wear them out. Thrift stores and consignment shops can offer steep savings on like-new fashion.

Receive cash for your child's slightly used clothes to help pay for school supplies.

Take advantage of sales.
Follow your favorite store catalogs, fliers and websites. Shop sales and use coupons.

Search online. You may find deals that aren't available in-store.

Shop "tax-free" holidays.
Some states offer tax-free shopping holidays before the school year begins. To find out if your state has scheduled a tax-free holiday, and to find out what rules apply, visit your state government's website. A partial list is also available on the Federal Tax Administrators website.*

Buy in bulk.
Many stores offer lower prices on supplies bought in bulk. Stocking up at the beginning of the school year may save you money by year-end.

Another option...share the supplies, and costs, with other parents for even greater savings.


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*The 2012 State Sales Tax Holidays list, available on the Federal Tax Administrators website, may not be complete. Contact your state legislator for more information.

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This article is based on information available in August 2012. It is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific financial, investment, tax, legal, accounting, or other advice and should not be acted or relied upon without the advice of a professional advisor. A professional advisor will recommend action based on your personal circumstances and the most recent information available.