Saturday April 8 2017
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Back To School Shopping

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It's back to school time. But before the kids go back to the classroom, the parents go back to the stores—and back inside their pocketbooks and wallets—to load up on what you'll need to get through the next school year. Here are some tips to save some cash during back-to-school shopping season.

Make a list of what you need before you hit the shopping aisles. Sounds obvious. But before you make that list, look around the house to figure out what they still have, what they can still wear what actually does need to be replaced.

Maybe the cloths they started the school year with in 2010 are too small, but much of their holiday or birthday gifts may fit just fine. And as for school supplies, open last year's back-pack, find the shoebox with everything from the last day of school, and you may very well have enough pencils, papers and glue sticks. Take five minutes and look for that calculator you bought last year. Don't buy items until you're sure you need those particular items.

You've got a budget for bills and groceries; do the same thing for back-to-school purchases. Create a workable budget, include everything, and stick to it. A couple things to keep in mind:

  • You don't need to buy everything on the list at once.
  • You don't need to buy everything on the list at the same store.
  • Not every item needs to be top quality. Go cheap when it makes sense to do so.
  • Consider layaway plays. They are usually less expensive than credit cards, usually require a small amount of money down, and can often be paid off online.

Does your kid really need an iPad? Or do they just WANT it? Does that backpack need all the bells and whistles, or does it just need to be look cute and be sturdy enough to hold books and other school items?

If there is money leftover in the budget, then—and only then—should you consider the wants over the needs.

For multi-child households, this is something you should already be doing. No need to buy items over and over if you have perfectly good ones leftover from big sister's third-grade year.

Go online for some alternative ideas:

  • At, you can browse a list of “pre-loved” kids clothes and toys and get a box delivered to your doorstep for $5 plus $10.95 shipping and handling. Post your own list, and when another member picks your box, send it free of charge. The site provides boxes, postage and even schedules the pick-up.
  • allows you to refresh books and games or update your wardrobe, and even has a special section specifically for schools.
  • is an online community where "hip moms trade goods from baby slings to clarinets without any money changing hands.".

Check out your local sales circulars, newspaper ads and TV commercials to see where the coupons and sales are happening, and go online to visit to see if your state is among 16 celebrating tax holidays this year.