Budget back-to-school shopping
I know a lady who pinches her pennies so tight that she makes Abraham Lincoln scream. When it comes time for back to school shopping, ol’ Mr. Lincoln just doesn’t even make it inside her house!
By mid-July, many parents are happy to see that first day of school creeping up and seeing their children off to the next year of learning, but they are dreading the approach of back to school shopping. It’s expensive with one kid, but it gets worse when you have several. Experienced parents in Mat-Su are frequent fliers with local thrift and consignment stores-- downtown Palmer’s Bishop’s Attic, Thrifter’s Rock on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, Wasilla’s Treasure Loft on Yenlo Street, and a host of other stores Anchorage.
When it comes time to shop for school supplies, gather up all the lists for your children and figure out what you need to purchase. Many times these can be found on line. Print them off—AFE puts them on a clipboard and does the tape-and-string with a disposable mechanical pencil.
1. Shop at home first.
You may have already been purchasing over the summer in anticipation of gym shoes and certain items that are requested every year, buying when on sale and have set them aside in a closet or a (stackable) Rubbermaid container, where they are easily accessible to stash after purchases, but where your kids and spouse are unlikely to look for them. Into this saving area, you can also add clothes (including socks and underwear on sale) that you have been buying and setting aside. It is best to access this when the kids and husband are asleep and unlikely to dive into your treasure trove and scatter it before the first day of school.
Mark each item that you already have and highlight what you need. Keep the lists so you can use them to separate the loot later. Create either by writing out by hand or printing up a list of what you need to shop for. Put your set-aside treasures back into the place that you have been storing them and get ready to hit the stores.
Get rid of their clothes that they don’t need any more. Treat back-to-school like you do spring cleaning. Anything that your kids don’t need that isn’t paying rent is taking up valuable space in their dressers and closets. Make another list of what they need for clothes.
2. Call your friends who have children around the same sizes as your kids and see about trading. If someone is going in to Anchorage and going to Costco, if might be cheaper to split to cost on some school supplies in bulk. Go online and look at prices to see the prices. Don't pass a deal by on Craig's List-- sometimes parents have several outfits ready to sell in one big bundle and it saves you time and money to call them up and go see what they are offering. Many people prefer to sell through Craig's List than to sell at garage sales, and it's easier for everyone.
3. Go to the thrift stores for clothes
If you have a teenager who loves to shop, have your wash machine free for your return and have him or her go hunting with you to look for the younger kids. For some people, this is a constant search through the year, for others it is an occasional event. Go home, snip off the tags, and wash.
4. Consider consignment stores
In July and August, consignment stores are often still taking summer clothes. Do you have anything nice that your kids have out grown or that they won’t wear again, like the dress they wore to that wedding or a special church event? Did you buy anything to set aside that your kids have outgrown and will never wear? (Keep the tags on those and turn them in, too!) Find out when you can take the clothes to consignment stores and see if you can get credit. Local consignment stores are great because they keep the money in the community and the money is going to the local store owner. Other parents like you are turning in their never-worn and gently used clothes and looking for deals. You can find wonderful outfits and shoes, too! (If you are looking for gently used dance shoes and clothes, Barb at Growing Spurts frequently has them available!)
5. It’s easiest to buy underwear and socks at the box stores that you probably like to avoid. Keep your eyes open for the sales and buy them when you buy the back to school items. “One stop shopping” was meant for back-to-school shopping. Also, buy as many end-of-summer items as you can afford as are practical to you. Kids wear polo shirts and sweat pants year-round, so buying a the size they wear or even a size up is smart. Is your family considering pool parties over the year? Now is the best time to buy a swim suit when the prices are lower. A $2 pair of sandals a size or two up for next summer is a great deal and if your child is too big for them next year, you can always trade or sell them next summer.
6. Don’t buy extras unless you can afford them and think they will be used. There are a lot of teachers who don’t mind having extra bottles of hand sanitizer or Kleenex, but they may be short on space.
If you can, back-to-school shopping is best during mid-week when there are less shoppers. Whether or not you bring the kids is up to you, but have everyone (including the person paying) eat before leaving the house, and make sure that everyone goes to the bathroom. It’s never fun to shop on an empty stomach or a full bladder. Plan to make at least one pit stop if you will be shopping for a few hours.
When you return home, put the clothes away in your secret stash area. If your kids are the kind who have to try on every pair of socks and underwear and show off their outfits to all their friends, wait until a day or two before school starts to put the clothes out, or even wait to put them in their room the afternoon before it all resumes.
Remember that all over Mat-Su, school begins on August 17 with kindergarden roll-in until the official beginning on the 26th, but the first day for 2-12 in Anchorage is on the 16th, with classes beginning on August 22 for k-1.