For parents with school-age children, July and August are when they start shopping for back-to-school supplies. For the budget-minded, sticker shock on school supplies will have most parents wondering, “When do school supplies go on sale?” Besides pens, pencils, and notebooks, these days it is not out of the question for laptops, headphones, and even a new wardrobe on the list of school supplies. It can add up quickly. The National Retail Federation, a trade organization, estimates that families will spend close to $700 per child on back-to-school supplies—about 25 percent compared to a decade ago.
The best bet for parents to save money on school supplies for their children is to plan for the back-to-school shopping wave. Develop a strategy to either purchase or begin to purchase school supplies gradually over the course of a few months. One such plan would be to start a school supply savings account and pay into it each month. Do it with your children. You not only teach them the value of saving, but it’s something they become invested in as well. Either way, by doing so, children will get what they need and parents can cut costs. Here are a handful of other tips to follow and ways to save on school supplies.
The reality is July and August may not be the best time to shop for school supplies. It is best to hold off on buying all the school supplies at once. A lot of school supplies go on clearance in September, when the demand begins to taper off. The weeks after Labor Day see the price of school supplies drop dramatically.
Buy Supplies for the Following Year
This relates to September shopping for supplies but extends beyond that month. By expanding the time frame for your purchases, parents can buy school essentials as the price for them crashes during the fall months. Be frugal, stock up on things that your children will need for the next year, and save.
Avoid Buying What You Already Have
This is a basic strategy often overlooked. Prices for school supplies should not vary that much by store, but it all adds up. Plus, why buy them if you do not need to? Before shopping, do an inventory of what supplies you already have. You’ll most likely discover you have plenty of unused office and school supplies on hand.
Hold Off on New Clothes
While growing kids need new clothing, you don’t have to buy a new wardrobe for them each August. Hold off on purchasing new clothing until those prices begin to drop in September and October. That’s when retailers typically slash the fall clothing prices. A nice compromise is to buy one new outfit for the first day of school. Shopping at consignment shops and thrift stores can save money, too. Thrift stores often receive high-quality, new clothing, albeit manufacturers closeouts. These closeouts can be had for a bargain.
Wait for a Sales Tax Holiday to Shop
Sales tax holidays occur in many states over the summer, near the end of July or early August. Shoppers can purchase their supplies, particularly big-ticket items like laptops, without paying sales tax. Check to see when your state is having a sales tax holiday and save on clothing, computers, and school supplies.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Follow your favorite stores on Twitter or Facebook. These companies often send their followers links to coupons and give advance notice of sales. Monitor the feeds of such stores as Staples: @Staples, Office Max: @OfficeMax, TJ Maxx: @tjmaxx, Marshalls: @marshalls, Best Buy: @BestBuy, Target: @Target or Kohl’s: @Kohls, and save big!
Listen to Your Child’s Teacher
Many teachers have a detailed list of supplies that students will need to be posted on the school’s website. Read through that list. Knowing what your child will need and when means only buying what is needed at a particular time. In other words, don’t purchase supplies or books in September that will not be needed until January.
Finally, shopping for the coming school year can be expensive, particularly in the middle of the summer when you may be on vacation. It’s important to plan on back-to-school shopping before school creeps upon you and your family. Plan ahead, stick to a strategy, take advantage of sales, and learn to save big on back-to-school supplies each year!