Every year, parents and kids look forward to the start of the school year. Parents anticipate the structure of school days, and kids are abuzz at the thought of being together with old chums once again.
Unfortunately, buying back to school supplies can put a damper on the fun by straining your bank account. When it's time to stock up on back to school gear, start with a plan. Here are the most common spending pitfalls, plus tips for saving money on each category.
Tip #1 Clothing. Parents know that the pens, pencils, calculators and notebooks are inevitable expenditures, but it's always a surprise to pull out cold-weather clothing and realize pants are too short and wrists peek out from under "long" sleeves.
If the cost of new brand-name shirts, pants and shoes has you stressed, cut the costs by shopping when kids aren't around. Swap babysitting favors with a friend and hit the resale shop alone. Buy gently used clothing, and you'll save a ton. Often, kids can't even tell the difference after the clothes are washed and tags are removed.
Tip #2 Electronics. These days, almost all classrooms require kids to access updated computers to complete homework. Many teachers have tablets in-room and encourage kids to use mobile apps to complete assignments at home. You can't spend every weeknight at the library, waiting in line to use public electronics - it just doesn't make sense.
Instead, look for deals on these big-ticket items.
The best way to save money on back-to-school electronics is to wait. That's right, planning early is best, but waiting to act on a sale could really pay off.
The National Retail Federation lists electronics as the number two ranked back-to-school expense for average American households. The association goes on to say that retailers tend to roll out their best deals later in the season, to clear inventory and entice shoppers with hard-to-refuse discounts.
Other tips for saving money on electronics include holding off until Georgia's tax sales holiday, buying open-box devices or getting refurbished gadgets from a trusted source.
Tip #3 The actual supplies. The actual supplies needed for a successful learning experience - binders, folders, protractors - usually are not that expensive. Still, there are ways to save.
Start by sweeping your own drawers and closets for reusable goods. Often, you'll find notebooks and pens that have only been used a few times - if at all. Get a list from your kids' teachers so when you do go out to buy new stuff, you're not getting things you don't even need. Also, compare the bulk options to see whether buying a case instead of a box of something makes sense. If you'll use it in the coming year and the price per unit diminishes significantly with the larger purchase, it's worth buying in bulk.
Back to school season is the second largest spending event of each year, according to the National Retail Federation. Don't become a statistic this year - take charge and be creative to save cash now so the kids can do more fun things later in the school year.
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