Back to School – Money Saving Ideas

Ok, don’t panic.  Preparing to go back to school doesn’t have to be expensive or done all at once.  Here are some tips that can help your child get ready for school without busting your budget.

Search online and see if your State offers a “Tax Free Holiday”.  Some States give sales tax breaks aligned with back to school shopping.

Start with a list – take inventory.  Figure out how many pants, socks, underwear, shirts, sweaters, sneakers, etc. still fit or need to be replaced.  Figure on a weeks worth of clothes as a general rule of thumb.  Next, go through the school supplies list from the school and see what you already have from last year that you can still use.  Now, make a master list of everything that you will need and stick to the list.

Clothes tend to be the most expensive part of back to school costs.  When it comes to clothes, you do not have to purchase everything at once.  Even in colder climates, the weather will be warm for the next couple of months so summer clothes that are on clearance sale should hold you over.

Consignment stores are great places for bargains.  Usually clothes have been gently used and are fine.  Believe it or not -EBay has been an up and coming resource on used clothing.  Don’t shy away from Goodwill either.  Clothes in good condition are clothes and savings is savings.  Did you know that retailers often donate previous season clothing that was not sold to chartable organizations?  Check it out.

Stores will start sending out fliers shortly for back to school supplies.  Be aware that most sale items are lost leaders designed to get you into the store to purchase other items.  Check each stores sales items and target only those items per store.  This will really stretch your dollar.

Dollar Stores are great for most supplies but sometimes buying a cheaper item can cost you more in the long run.  So, be a smart shopper. Ask yourself about the quality of the item.  If you purchase markers that dry out in the first month and you end up having to replace them; was it really worth saving the $3?

Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Office Depot, etc. will also have a huge selection and savings on notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.   Hey, while you are at it, now is a great time to stock up on home supplies as well.

When it comes to book covers, the old brown paper bag still works great.    It can be decorated and personalized with a bit of imagination.  You can also use some heavy construction or gift wrap paper.  Point being, you don’t need to spend top dollar to cover text books.

Cosmetic Bags make great pencil holders.  Don’t worry, they make solid colors for the boys in the family.  It can hold more supplies than the holders and is sturdier for about the same price.

If you need to purchase text books, still has some of the best pricing out there.  Open up a couple of browsers and run side by side comparisons – it may be that you get your books from several sources. even allows you to “rent” your textbooks.  You can even get e-textbooks that are digital versions of printed textbooks with enhanced features like high-speed searching and electronic note-taking.

Now is a great time to have a frank discussion with your kids about finances and a budget.  Check out’s booklet Talking Money With Your Kids for more idea on how to best approach this subject!