The ring of the school bell, the rumble of the bus, the rush of sneakers scuffling along hallways: the sounds of a new school year are almost upon us. Along with it is that dreaded ka-ching of the cash register. The National Retail Federation’s Back-to-School Spending Survey shows the average family will spend about $630 on each K-12 child.
How can you save money while keeping your children supplied? While kids learn the three R’s, parents should learn the three S’s: sales, second-hand items and savings opportunities.
Start with a list
Take an inventory of what you have versus what you need. Count and sharpen old pencils. Dig out the supplies you tossed into a corner in June. Are last year’s backpacks reusable? Anything you have on hand is money saved at the office supply store. If funds are tight, don’t fall under the glitter pencil spell or cave to the Minions lunchbox. Your kids won’t notice after a few days.
Save money on clothes
Luckily in Florida, many kids can start off wearing the same shorts and skirts they wore at the end of last school year. Look in the closet: what has your child outgrown from last year? What are good hand-me-downs versus swap-worthy items? Join one of the online garage sale groups to buy and sell entire lots of children’s clothes. Plato’s Closet and many thrift stores sell boys’ as well as girls’ clothes for deep discounts. The Clothes Mentor consignment shops in Palm Harbor and St. Petersburg carry mostly women’s clothes but also have popular Vera Bradley purses, wallets and backpacks for $10-$20.
Save money on food
Unless your kids are on a lunch plan, get yourself a game plan. Stock up now on snacks, chips and cookie packets using coupons and store specials. For the fresh fare, make a list of how many carrot sticks and apples you’ll need per child per week, and how many loaves of bread and containers of yogurt they go through. The more you can cook at home, the more you can save. Plan to assemble a week’s worth of lunches on Sundays, and then allocate space in your refrigerator just for the produce.
Save on electronics
If you miss the back to school tax-free holiday Aug. 7-16, you missed an opportunity to save state sales tax. Still, retailers are always aiming to clear out old inventory and make way for new technology. August is considered a good month to save on electronics in general. Shop online at Dell, Newegg or HP for refurbished models.
How many years have you bought everything on the teacher’s supply list, only to find your kid doesn’t use half of it? Talk to other parents about what’s needed. Buy the basics that are on sale now, and then add other items after school starts or later in the year. Retailers want to clear their shelves, so items will go on sale again.
Back to school can be a dreaded time or a strategy to master. Think of the three S’s and you will be at the head of the class when it comes to saving.