“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” stated Nelson Mandela. That is certainly what parents are hoping as they pack their precious students off to school each fall. While the education may be free at public schools, the supplies are not. So, whether going public or private school, this time of year has most parents searching for the best ways to cut costs while gearing up for the new school year. Here are 7 strategies for back to school savings to help get started.

Savings Strategies

  1. Inventory – Now is the time to hunt down all the free floating crayons, markers, pens, etc currently in the house. Perhaps at the end of school in the spring you stored all the notebooks, binders, and supplies that came home then. Go ahead and see what you have on hand before hitting the stores. Savings Tip – Do this with your children’s clothes, shoes, and sports equipment too.
  2. Budget – Once you know what you need to buy, set an amount that you plan to spend and stay within it. Explain it to your kids too so they can help keep you on track. Otherwise you will be tempted to buy the $45 backpack rather than the $25 one and so forth. Base your purchases on needs and not wants.
  3. Sales – Nearly all stores put school supplies on sale this time of year. Don’t pay full price for anything until you’ve determined it’s not on sale somewhere else. Many items are Buy One Get One Free or half price. Don’t neglect the bargain stores either. Granted, you may be purchasing off brands but that may also just mean the difference between a polkadot binder and a plain one.
  4. Tax Free – If your state participates in a tax free weekend, mark it on your calendar. This may be the time to buy higher ticket items such as laptops. Check with your state’s guidelines for limits and exclusions. For example, readers and PDAs may not be included.
  5. Coupons – Sign up for coupons, newsletters, and mailing lists to get the most current coupons available. You can also search the manufacturer’s site to be sure there isn’t one available online. Don’t forget online retailers such as Discount School Supply, who often combine low prices and coupons for extra savings.
  6. Social Media – Get your friends involved with posting about deals they find. Share yours as well. More and more people are using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to announce sales, favorite products, and scores from their own shopping trip. Not to mention you can Friend or Follow your favorite stores to get up-to-the-minute information.
  7. Swap – Organize a swap party for both supplies and clothes. Invite a wide age range to maximize swapping opportunities for all. Parents with older children may have that graphing calculator and be more than happy to pass it on. This is a great opportunity to swap toys, books, and sports gear too.

Picture of Savings Chalkboard

The days of summer are dwindling, and it can be jolt getting back into the swing of school again. Yet, armed with savings strategies and a little planning, back to school shopping doesn’t need to mean digging deeper into pockets. In fact, it can be a great way to get your students geared up and excited about embarking on a new school year. Who knows? Perhaps this will be the year that they enjoy it most. After all, as Ralph W. Wockman said, “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.”