August is here - it's time to buy the school supplies.
Once upon a time, a sharp pencil, and some paper and pens were enough to get your kids through at least elementary school. Today, the amount of supplies needed and their prices have skyrocketed.
But it's not impossible to save money in big and small ways. Here are some tips that can help you avoid burning a hole in your pocket this school year.
1. Don't buy everything on the teacher's list
Before school starts, some teachers may send a preliminary list of what school supplies parents must buy for their kids for the school year. If you do get such a list, don't rush out to buy everything on it right away.
Start off buying just the essentials (i.e. pens, pencils, paper, glue, etc.). Only get the specialty items when really necessary. Sometimes teachers may change their mind and your kid may not even need that special tool for a specific art class.
2. Check your home school supplies inventory FIRST
If you keep an updated list of what school and home office supplies are already available in the house, check this list first to see what you've already got, and cross them off your list of things to buy this school year.
If you don't have an inventory, get everyone, young or old, student or not, to either submit their own inventory or dump every school supply imaginable in one spot of the house. Then start noting what is available and what is not.
It's annoying to discover you had three packages of brand new loose-leaf in the closet but ended up buying more for back to school.
3. Encourage hand-me-down supplies
If fifteen-year-old Sara has five packages of loose-leaf, encourage her to hand down at least one or two for younger siblings who need them for school as well. Use this concept for other school supplies.
4. Write a precise shopping list
Make sure to write a very exact school supplies shopping list after checking your existing inventory, so that no extra items are bought and money is not wasted.
5. Be on the hunt for coupons
Don't throw out those flyers! Many stores include coupons for school supplies. This is a good activity for the younger members of the household. Get a few pairs of safety scissors and have them cut out any coupon for school supplies. Even if they don't know how to read yet, they can identify items by their pictures. It will be a great learning experience for them and you can save some bucks from it too.
6. Shop around for supplies
Would you buy all of your groceries or your clothes from just one store? Of course not! The same principle applies to school supplies.
Usually stores will put one item on sale, but most of their other stuff is priced the same or only slightly lower. Shop around for the right supplies. Plan your school supply buying route carefully, though so you can get other errands done on the way too, instead of wasting time and gas just to save a few cents on a package of pens or markers.
7. Stock up on home office supplies during back to school supplies shopping
Use back to school shopping as a time to stock up on home supplies too. Pens, pencil, papers, etc. are much cheaper at this time of year. Take advantage of the sales for school and your home office.
8. Use old gift wrapping paper, newspaper, grocery bags as textbook protectors
Don't spend money on brand new plastic for textbook covers. Save money and be creative by using old gift wrapping paper, newspaper, or plain brown grocery bags which the kids can draw on and decorate after the book is covered.
9. Make home made school supplies
If you've got a knack for sewing, you can take a piece of material that is your kid's favorite color and make a pencil case, complete with Ameena or Ali's name stitched on it. Or even better, get them to do it themselves.
You could also create a desk pencil holder with an old can of frozen orange juice and a book and magazine holder from used cereal and detergent boxes. Be creative and be on the lookout for how you can make your own supplies from basic household items.
10. Get the kids to pay for the most expensive items
This is also a good way to teach kids how to save money. By making them pay for the most or one of the most expensive school supply items, they will be more careful how their money is spent and they will learn something about spending and saving their own money.
11. Look for old and used school supplies from last year
If you've found pencils that have only been used one quarter of the way, or a notebook which only had a few pages used, keep them.
Then in the middle of the school year, when the desire for brand new supplies is usually gone, you can give Sara that almost new pencil or notebook instead of buying a new one at regular price.