Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to School Shopping on the Cheap

Take Stock: Before you hit the stores, do an inventory of what's in the house. Pull out the pens, pencils, glue sticks and whatever else you have. Know what you have so you don't come home with three boxes of loose-leaf paper only to find an unopened one in the closet. While you're at it, jazz up any unused adult office supplies, like binders, with stickers and collages to make them kid-friendly.

On the Cheap: Inflation might be hitting you hard at the grocery store, but stores like OfficeMax and Target are slashing prices like it's 1935, selling pencils for a penny and literally giving away some supplies. Keep your eyes peeled for deep discounts. Know when a Sales Tax Holiday hits your state--they usually come in August--and shop then.

Save the Gas: Buy what you can online. Many stores offer free shipping and most have huge online discounts. With gas prices through the roof, the free container of Elmer's Glue that Staples is giving away might not be worth the savings once you fill your tank. It might be cheaper to visit instead.

Do What the Teacher Says: Step away from the aisle! Avoid impulse buying. Stick to the list the teacher gave you. If Hannah Montana folders aren't on it, don't buy them. Impulse purchases add up and unnecessary supplies end up unused.

Super Size It: Buy in bulk at stores like Costco or Sam's Club. Even if you have a small family, some supplies will still be good next year or later in the year. Or, team up with another mom and do a bulk shopping run together.

College Costs: No cost hits college kids harder than textbooks. Before investing in crisp, new books for your budding scholar, check out online discounts at or's Marketplace. A new copy of the Riverside Shakespeare--a must have for any English major--can set you back $90, a used copy can cost less than half that.

Recycle, Reuse: No time like the present to help save the environment. Reuse gently used notebooks rather than buying new. Make textbook covers out of paper bags. Your kids can decorate them however they want and it teaches them about recycling. While you're at it, skip the single-serving juice boxes and invest in sports bottles so you can use juice straight from the carton.

Wait It Out: Hold off on buying new threads until after the school year starts. September is usually warm enough that your kids will be wearing their summer clothes anyway. If you think retailers are cutting costs now to get you in the door, wait until October!

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