Saving on Back-to-school shopping

It’s that time again for back-to-school shopping.  I know many of you are dreading it and seeing the statistics of what the average parent pays this time of year I thought I would stick my two cents worth in to show how I saved money when my boys were that age.

The latest figures state the average parent will spend $688.62 on school clothes and supplies for children in grades K- 12 in the USA. I can’t imagine spending that much, but then times have changed, or  have they?

First:  Know what you need The very first year I didn’t give any thought to what my son actually needed.  I went out and bought him tops, jeans, shoes, socks etc.  After shopping I realized he didn’t need every thing I had bought.

  • Try on the clothes you already own.  BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT.  How many pants are too short. How many pairs of socks pass your inspection to be worn.  Can you wash out some stains and continue to use certain clothing items.
  • Check your budget. How much to you have to spend on each child? This isn’t the time to make sure you spend the exact same amount on each child, we all try to be fair, but if you do you will end up spending more than you need.
  • Make a list of what you will need and stick to that list.
  • What is in good condition you can hand down from an older child or family members?
  • Shop first at consignment stores and thrift stores for items that are clean and gently worn.  If you can’t find everything you need there then and only then head to the stores for new items.
  • There are things I never bought used.  These included underwear, socks, and shoes.  These I would buy first then head out to fill in the rest of my necessities.
  • When you head out to buy new,  try Sears.  Their children’s clothes are guaranteed (exceptions include pjs, underwear and socks).  I’ve saved more money using their guarantee than I realized.  If a child tears, wears out, or the items falls apart, you take it back to any Sears with your receipt and receive a new one. If they don’t have that item, they will allow you to choose from any other item and all  you pay is the difference between the items.  I purchased all my boys’ shoes there.  I paid a little more initially for my son ($40 rather than $20 which was my normal budget), but ended up getting 3 more pair when they didn’t hold up.  20 times 4 = $80 savings of $40!
  • What can you personalize?  I was on a tight budget the year my youngest started kindergarten being that he was very sports-minded,  I picked up plain cotton pocket tees.  Then I embroidered different designs on the pockets.  I was frequently asked where I found those because other children wanted them too.  I had picked up the different colored tees 4 for $6.00.  The biggest plus was that my son liked having the most popular tops in class.

Second: Ask the school what you will need to provide for supplies. There is no reason to buy items you won’t need.

  • One year I bought an assortment of pocket folders only to have the teacher send a list home on the first day of school insisting on certain color folders for each subject.  Back out to the store I went.  The items I purchased first went unused for a couple of years.
  • When we lived in New Mexico, the schools were poorer than the one my son previously attended.  Not only did I have to provide notebooks and such for his personal use, each parent had to buy paper and tissues for the classroom use.
  • Teachers know what they are going to require before school starts, simply stop by the school and ask for the list it will save you time and money.
  • Some schools will offer a program to buy all the items your child will need.  If they can buy in bulk and save you a few dollars and time it may be worth your time to sign up for this.

Third: Haircuts: If you don’t know someone who can cut your children’s hair, or if you can’t, seek out a barber even for your daughters.  Barber shops are much cheaper than beauty salons.  Many women are now working as barbers, but can do the latest cuts your child may want.  I was a licensed cosmetologist in my younger years and was able to cut my own children’s hair.  I also cut friends’ kids hair in exchange for a day of babysitting (when I had to work an hour or so after school let out) or for a few school supplies.  This works out best when you see the buy one get one free.  Friends would buy what they needed and pass on the free items to me in exchange for hair cuts for their children.

Of course my children only attended school for a few years before we decided to home school.  I had much more control over our spending and saved quite a bit during those years.

If you homeschool  You will have a better idea of what you need.  If you want to save on paper, you have the control to do so.  Once you choose your area of study for each subject you can make your list of what you will need.  In our state we had to show examples of our work each year for review.  I kept copies of certain things and had others on the computer that I saved on disc to include with our portfolio for each child.

Above all else don’t shop just from the ads. You will be more likely to buy items you don’t need because they are on sale.

There are many things today that weren’t required when my children attended school.  For example, computers.  But there are ways to save there too.  Search for used computers online or through local ads.  If you are fortunate to know someone who can build a computer you can ask them to build one to your needs for next to nothing.
What are your favorite ways of saving on back-to-school shopping?



    • That’s fantastic. I was lucky my boys never needed uniforms, so I was able to be creative. As for field trips, I kept a small fund (in an envelope in my kitchen) for those unexpected trips as they always seemed to come at an inopportune time.


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