August 9, 2014

Back to School On a Budget

Since many of us are preparing to go back to school in the upcoming weeks, I wanted to do a post full of tips for saving on back to school shopping for items like clothing and school supplies. I hope this helps you save some money, and let me know if there are any other posts you'd like to see in the next few weeks as we prepare for the upcoming school year!

photo credit: laffy4k via photopin cc


1. Take Inventory

The first thing you should do before you make your back-to-school shopping list is to go through what you already have. When shopping the sales, you'll come across cute supplies and some incredible deals, but those deals aren't going to save you money if you don't need the item in the first place. Make sure you know exactly what you need, make a list and stick to it. 

2. Swap with Friends

Another way to cut down on the number of items you actually need to purchase is to invite friends over for a back-to-school swap. Whether you're a teenager who wants to trade clothes with friends or a mother with tons of items like glue, composition books or calculators that your children no longer need, this is a free way to swap unused items for things on your list. 

3. Browse the ads 

Before you head to the stores, browse the ads for stores in your area. Big box stores such as Target, WalMart and Office Depot have great deals on school supplies and they advertise them heavily. Go through the ads and find out where you need to go to get the best deals for the items on your shopping list. 

4. Check out Goodwill, Big Lots and the Dollar Tree

Don't limit yourself to those retail giants, though, because stores such as Big Lots and Dollar Tree sell inexpensive school supplies year-round. You can find bigger items such as desk organizers and backpacks for pennies on the dollar at the Goodwill, too, and it would be a good place to start because you can also often find unused journals and binders anywhere from 10 cents to a dollar. 

5. Compare Textbook Prices, Rent or Buy From Friends

If you're a college student (or you go to a school that doesn't supply you with free textbooks), checkout a site like Simply enter in the title or ISBN of the book or the name and college of the course you're taking and the site will give you a list of places you can buy the book and the prices for which they sell it. It's an easy way to make sure you are getting the best price for the book, which can provide a significant amount of savings as textbooks can be very expensive. If purchasing the cheapest book on the list is still out of your price range, consider renting or checking with friends who have already taken the course to see if they're willing to lend you the book or sell it to you at a reduced price. 

6. DIY Supplies

So you're at a store and a nicely embellished folder or planner catches your eye, but while that cute folder is $2.99, you can get a solid, simple folder on sale for $0.10. Pick up the plain, "boring" folder and DIY it to create something you love! For example, I was at Target and came across an aisle of gold desk accessories and immediately fell in love- but not with the high price tags. Instead of purchasing the $15.00 gold stapler from the collection, I picked up a $3.00 can of gold spray paint and created a look-a-like using a black stapler I already had at home! You can also find great tutorials for DIY school supplies on YouTube or Pinterest, so browse the web and get inspired to create your own personalized accessories.

7. Save for Next Year

After school has started, you'll see prices on supplies go down even further. This is a prime opportunity to stock up for next year's school supplies or supplies you may need to replenish later on in the year (such as pencils or notebook paper). 

Clothing and Accessories

8. Online Shopping

Online shopping can be a great way to find deals on clothes, especially when you're short on time or don't have any way to get to the mall. Just type what you want into a search engine, compare prices, and then look for coupon codes to get an even better deal. 

9. Consignment Stores and Thrifting

Consignment stores are great for clothing bargains year-round. While the majority of the items you'll find here are used, people occasionally sell brand new items with tags still on them that you can get marked down by very high percentages. Also, when you're at the thrift store browsing for supplies, take a few minutes to look through the clothing racks! You'll usually be able to find unique items for extremely cheap prices, so it's definitely worth a browse. You could find a dress you love that nobody else in school will have and get it for just a few bucks!

10. Discount Shops

If you're not into secondhand clothes or other people's unwanted items, try discount stores like Marshall's, Ross and T.J. Maxx. Their items are brand new, usually designer items that you can get for up to 90% off. It's fun to shop through the designer items and being surprised by the non-designer prices, and while you're there you browse the aisles for designer home decor and kitchen supplies, too. 

11. Shop Sales

Stores at the mall and standalone stores like Target and Kohl's usually advertise their great back to school clothing sales. Back-to-school is a time when many people like to shop for new clothes and switch up their look, so stores really try to compete for your business during this time. 

12. Balance 

If there's one specific item you really want but can't seem to find a good deal on, go ahead and buy it, but make sure to save on everything else. Budgeting is all about balance, so if there's something high on your list that's really going to put a strain on your budget, try to cut back in other areas.

I'm currently working on a post involving tips for a successful school year, based on my experience from elementary through college. That will be up within a couple of days, so keep an eye out! Thanks for visiting my blog today!