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8 Tips for Saving Money on Back to School Items

Back to School Basics: 9 Tips for Saving Money on Back to School Items - TaxACT

I love my kids.

I love my kids.

That’s the mantra I keep repeating around August 1st every year after spending the summer with a bunch of “Type A” personality children.

The newspapers are filled with Back to School ads and once again, I have hope.

There won’t be a constant stream of “I’m bored” or “There’s nothing to do” or “Steven gets to go to Hawaii for his vacation and all we did was go to Six Flags!”

Yes, I love my kids.

As a mom of many, I’m something of a veteran when it comes to organizing and conquering the back to school barrage.

Here are some tips to save money and sanity while experiencing the most wonderful time of the year – back to school shopping:

1. Love to Learning

Your kids can learn financial literacy while experiencing a Back to School budget.

Depending on the child’s age, you can set a spending amount for their supplies, clothes and books.

Make sure their budget is age appropriate and coach them on what their limits are for the shopping season.

Whether the budget is $50 for your school aged child to buy school supplies or $500 for your college student to buy dorm room essentials, you can monitor how they are spending and coach them on the best ways to use their budgeted money.

For my children fifteen and older, I use an additional card that is added to one of my credit card accounts, where I can set spending limits and they can have their budget set on the card.

It gets them used to the responsibility of a charge card and yet they can’t get into trouble because I establish the boundaries.

2. Layer the Savings

In today’s economy it is no longer enough to just save by buying something on sale—today, you have to layer the savings.

For the store, this means buying items on sale when you also have a coupon. Coupon Mom shows you what’s on sale in your neighborhood and the matching coupon.

For online shopping, look for sale items where you can also use a coupon or coupon code to save on the price, shipping and more.

It requires a little research, but it can also translate into hundreds of dollars of savings for your back to school season.

3. Look for “Double Dipping”

It’s great to get a good value on a much needed back to school item, but if you can also earn reward points on that purchase or help your 18 year old establish and build their own credit, then you are truly getting the most bang for your buck by maximizing those back to school shopping dollars.

4. Little from Big

When planning for kids school lunches this coming fall, buy lunch staples in larger sizes to save by buying in bulk, then repackage them into smaller sizes.

For example, take that 5 pound bag of mini carrots and put them in snack sized plastic bags for a healthy and affordable option for lunch at a 30% savings over buying the smaller pre-packaged sizes.

5. Limited Spending Plan

One technique we’ve used for all our many children, whether they are in elementary school or college is to make saving money a family affair.

We give the kids a spending plan, telling them how much money we will give them for their back to school budget.

The fun comes in when we tell them that they get to keep what they do not spend.

So if we’ve budgeted $75 for tennis shoes and they find them on sale for $35, then they get to pocket the extra $40.

It’s amazing how our kids can distinguish between “needs” and “wants” when it comes to this added motivation of learning ways to spend less and save more.

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This fresh idea not only saves our family money, but it has trained all our children in money matters, making them more adept as young adults.

6. Lengthen The Shopping Season

One of the reasons families overspend for back to school items is because they are locked into the idea that they need all the school supplies, clothes and gadgets the first week of school.

In reality, the majority of these items will be on sales or clearance, especially clothing, within the first month after school starts.

So consider letting your child start the year with just enough clothing to get a good start and finish out their wardrobe as key items go on clearance a month later.

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The same can apply to backpacks, lunch boxes and sporting equipment.

As long as they have a prepaid card or a supplemental card with their limit, you’ll find yourself right on track and get more for less.

7. Leverage High Tech Savings

One thing that I’ve learned is that I only have a limited amount of time to teach my kids the things that matter most in life.

By making back to school shopping a family effort, I’ve been able to train our kids in money matters in fun ways that incorporate their strengths.

For example, I let our teenagers shop in a different part of the mall, encouraging them to do their online research by comparing store prices with other deals on their smart phones.

For example, they see a scientific calculator in the electronics store for their algebra class, they can search mySimon to see if it’s the best price.

Then they text me the numbers and I give them approval to buy it, which empowers them to contribute to our family’s economic well being while allowing them to learn financial literacy as well.

8. Look for Digital or Used Books

With the emergence of digital textbook options, it’s important to demystify digital for the student.

By going digital, a student can save 40% to 60% over new textbooks.

Although there are many titles available digitally, it might not be the most cost-efficient way to get your textbooks; your campus bookstore can help you find the right mix of new, used, rental and digital to help save a lot of money.

How can your kids help you save money on back to school items?

Photo credit: tncountryfan via photopin cc

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About Ellie Kay

Ellie Kay is a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good Money shows. She is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fourteen books including her newest release, The Sixty Minute Money Workout (Waterbrook, 2010). For money savings links visit Ellie's blog.