Getting kids ready to go back to school can be daunting: get them registered, find the new supplies list, and then go on the dreaded shopping spree I call the Back to School Wallet Drain.
It can take hours going from store to store for items that just went out of stock, made worse by the gut-wrenching horror of the shrinking checking account. Plan early and watch circulars for deals to save your sanity and some cash during the second-largest shopping season behind the winter holidays. Here are a couple of tips on how to save on school shopping:
Believe it or not, now is the time to score rock-bottom pricing on pens, papers, pencils, erasers, and binders. Don't disregard drugstores or office supply retailers, or make a special trip to buy everything at a dollar store; most retailers will have sales on these items. Some retailers will also have store coupons online which allow you to save even more or get items such as crayons, pens and tape for free. Look for manufacturer coupons online and then watch the sales flyers for even better deals. Last year I got pens, tape, pencils, repositionable notes, rulers, and erasers for mere pennies or free. I saved 75-85 percent on paper, backpacks, and cloth binders; all with the use of planning, manufacturer coupons, and store coupons.
For active duty military families, I recommend contacting the USO, Operation Homefront, and other organizations during the first two weeks in August to ask about school supply and backpack giveaways.
Clothing and Footwear
Buy back-to-school clothing or shoes during the tax-free holidays. Tax-free holidays give shoppers an opportunity to purchase clothing and shoes that are $100 or less per item and not be taxed on those items. Sadly for your young fashionista, accessories are still taxed. Virginia starts their tax-free holiday the first weekend in August; Marylanders can shop for clothing or shoes tax-free Aug. 12-18 this year.
Most retailers are online and offer exclusive or additional savings on online purchases. You can also find additional savings by looking for online shopping codes for percentages off or even free shipping.
Student, Teacher, & Military Discounts
For those purchasing software and laptops, a number of retailers offer great discounts for students, teachers and military. Mid-August is usually the best time to buy laptops using a student discount, because manufacturers reduce their prices significantly and many offer gift cards which can be used towards printers, ink, applications, etc. This time of year is also a great time to purchase software.
Look at purchasing used computers, monitors, and printers. Individuals and companies update their systems and are looking to off-load these used items at used electronics shops, thrift stores, flea markets, online and yard sales. Make sure these items work before you buy. For college students, looking for used textbooks online before hitting the campus bookstore could save more than 50-75 percent.
You know the old adage, "It never hurts to ask." With back to school, it doesn't hurt to ask for a deal. Salons, doctors and small stores sometimes offer discounts to teachers and students, but usually do not advertise them to the extent that major retailers do. The next time you frequent a business, ask if they offer discounts; you might score additional savings or even a freebie.
Kimberly Pepper-Hoctor is a 30-year coupon-clipping, military spouse whose passion is to teach others how to save with coupons. She teaches classes in the DC/MD/VA area and blogs at www.facebook.com/thegirllovescoupons and www.thegirllovescoupons.com.