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Back to school on budget

School supplies bought on sale
School supplies bought on sale
Photo by Pamela Maxwell

Even though it may feel like summer just started, it is already time to start thinking about going back to school. For many families, especial those with several kids, this time of year can be expensive. It does not have to be that way though, there are ways you can get ready for back to school while staying in your budget.

Before heading out to the store for back to school clothes , the first thing you should do is to see what you already have on hand. Go through the drawers and closets with your kids to see what still fits, and is in good condition. You might find that you do not need as much as you thought you did. It may also be worthwhile to wait until a few weeks after school starts to buy clothing for the new year. Depending on where you live, the first few weeks may still have warm enough temperatures that the kids can wear their summer shorts and tee shirts. Back to school clothes that hit the stores in the summer, will go on sale and clearance by the end of September, meaning a bigger savings for you by waiting just a few weeks. If your children outgrow their clothing quickly, it might also be worthwhile to check outlets, thrift and consignment stores for like new clothing at a fraction of the cost. Another way to save big money on back to school clothes is to take advantage of coupons, incentives and rewards. Big Box stores such as Kohls, JcPenny, and Old Navy offer high value coupons, and special cash rewards which can add up to big savings.

While you might not need a lot of back to school clothing, a big expense can be buying all of those school supplies. With a little bit of planning, you can save big on supplies as well. This summer the retailers started their back to school push earlier than in years past. While annoying to those who do not want to think about going back to school before the 4th of July fireworks, it is actually a good thing for the consumer. Competition can mean better sales. Each week the stores will have different items on sale at loss leader prices. Watch the flyers and buy the items you know will need the week they are on sale. Many stores will price match those sale prices, such as Staples who has a 110% price match guarantee. Stock up on items that are at super low prices to have throughout the year.

Instead of just shopping at big box stores, consider some alternative places for school supplies as well. Many drugstore chains have special rewards and coupons for school supplies at their stores. The dollar store carries many basic school supplies such as pencils and notebooks for only $1. If you have older children who need expensive math calculators, which often cost $100 and up, be sure to check Ebay, Craigslist, and the newspaper to find no longer needed calculators at a big savings.

By being a smart consumer, not only can you survive back to school time, but thrive while you do it.