Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to School Savings

clothing budget
Back to school shopping should be fun & not stressful.
If you have kids, you will be in the same boat as me this month; feeling like you have a hole in your pocket and wondering where all your money went after completing your back to school shopping.  According to The National Retail Federation back to school shopping is considered the second-largest spending event of the year behind Christmas.  They are expecting $83.3 billion to be spent this season.  That is just CRAZY!

However having two teenage girls that love clothes and school supplies, I know exactly how they get that figure.  Our youngest daughter Emily is big into organizing, which means school supplies that keep her on task.  She has OCD and if it isn't just right, we go back to the store. (This is called picking my battles because when she feels organized - life is a whole lot easier.)  Our oldest daughter Morgan likes fashion, but isn't into the name brands, which is nice.  Bottom line though - school shopping means bargain shopping for us.  We try and find the best in school savings by doing the following.

Ready, Set, Organize

  1. First things first in saving money...go through their closets and dressers to find out what clothes still fit and what they will still wear.  Hidden clothes in the back of the closet can sometimes find new life. 
  2. Next we do the oh so familiar hand me down drill.  My girls have different tastes so this doesn't always work out, but there are a few things Emily likes and will actually wear for the new school year.  
  3. Lastly, we go through all their old notebooks from last school year and see what we can salvage, including pens, pencils, erasers, etc....  Most of the time we can come up with a lot of the school supplies by having them look through their rooms.  I usually only have to buy paper and maybe a binder or two.

Clothing Budget Helps Save Money

Thinking Ahead - In our household we also give a clothing budget over the next three months for clothes.  Since we live in California it is still pretty warm when school starts so our kids are still wearing their summer clothes the first few months of school.  So, we give each girl a dollar limit at the beginning of each month to purchase clothes.  For example we give them $100.00 in August to buy whatever clothing they want - usually new shirts and shoes.  The next month they get another $100.00 for jeans and maybe more shirts.  Then another $100 the last month. This is when they buy some sweaters and maybe more pants.  This works well because 1) they always have new clothes and 2) we aren't buying things that they can't wear until the cooler weather hits.  It also prepares them for real life by learning to save and how to budget their money.

Best Places to Shop

Whether your child is going back to school this Fall for Kindergarten, 12th grade, or going off to college, you will need a list of supplies -- typically on the school's website or at the school.  If you are an online shopper, you can go to Staples and shop by the grade your child is entering.  There are always back to school savings with their back to school sales and it's convenient.  I found I get the biggest bang for my buck here!

If you are a Target shopper, another great place to shop for school supplies and finding back to school specials, not only can you buy supplies, you can also do school clothes shopping.  They even have a coupon page that has extra savings to print out.   Last year Emily bought her backpack for 50% off - a great deal for a very stylish backpack.

Another great place to save without all the hustle and bustle is CVS.  We go here quite often.  They always have sales, it isn't too big, and there is less to choose from.  This helps because too many choices can be frustrating and overwhelming.  Also, their Extra Care CVS Card provides extra savings.  Last month alone I saved over $360 and earned $24 in extra bucks, which I will use to buy school supplies this year.

back to school savings
New school clothes
always puts a smile on their faces.
The most expensive part about back to school is the clothes shopping.  It can be less painful if you know where to shop.  For example, outlet stores are a great choice if going for their deals. However, you may go in for one deal, but then end up buying other things that aren't on sale thus leaving with no real savings.

To be a bargain shopper for school clothing you need to go to more than just one store.  Research first.  Find out what sales are going on and don't impulse shop.  The local mall is always a great place around the new school year.  They all want you to buy their clothes so they are constantly competing with each other to have the better sale.

Here are a few stores that often have great deals on school clothes and shoes online or at the actual store:

  • Famous Footwear
  • Kohls (Great prices from shoes, to bags, to clothes - teenagers LOVE this store.)
  • JC Penney (The whole family will enjoy their styles and everyday is a sale.)
  • Aeropostale (Great fashion that teenagers love at low prices.)
  • Old Navy ( Teens aren't big shoppers here, but great for younger kids.)
  • Burlington Coat Factory (Great for name brands with half the price and a little more organized than Ross or Marshalls.)
  • PacSun (Great for teen name brands and jeans are usually buy one get one free.)
Even if your children wear uniforms, I wish I had that problem, there are good deals on cheap school uniforms.  Old Navy has great prices from $5.00 to $20.00 for shirts to pants.  JC Penney has a lot of the same as Old Navy just a little more variety on the style.  A little more in cost, but really cute skirts and other styles to spruce up the uniform a little.

Coupons, coupons, coupons...whenever I buy online or get ready to hit the mall I go on the web first to make sure I have every coupon available.  I use online sites like: Retail Me Not,  Printable Coupons, or Deal Catcher  for coupon savings! Just print and take them to the store.

One last tip for back to school savings with teens.  Instead of taking them shopping and letting them buy whatever they want, I would suggest giving them the money and making them manage it.  Negotiate on a set amount before you go and give it to them.  This will make them think about what they are buying and do the math on how much money they have left after each purchase.  They will be more prone to doing a little bargain shopping.  If they know they only have $200 to spend, they might think twice about buying those $100 jeans.  It gives them a sense of control, but also a sense of how much everything costs and that money doesn't grow on trees.

Proactive School Savings

All of these savings and back to school talks bring up a big topic...saving for college.  There are a lot of people out there that are unaware of how to save NOW for college costs in the FUTURE.   Getting an educational savings account is the first place to start. is a great site to learn about a 529 Plan or Coverdell college savings account plan.  These education savings plans help families set aside funds for future collegcosts.  Planning is an easier and less painful method for saving for school, than trying to come up with it at college time.  Plus these accounts provide special tax benefits.  Upromise  is another great college savings plan that allows you to build up a college savings account while you shop for those items your children need now!

Contributing Writer
Training Wheels Preschool Owner

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