As you’re hitting the stores, here are a few tips to help you save and be sure to join us for a special back to school Twitter party this Tuesday, 7/31 at 8 p.m. CST (9 p.m. EST, 7 p.m. MST and 6 p.m. PST) to discuss back to school savings and tax free shopping weekends. We’ll be giving away Walmart gift cards to help with your back to school shopping as well as having some fun chats and ideas. RSVP here and follow the hash tag #TaxFreeIA on Twitter during that time to join in. (PS.. You don’t have to be from Iowa to attend, everyone is welcome!)
1. Shop tax free weekends when available in your state. For a state by state guide of dates and eligible items click here.
2. Use coupons. Coupons are good for more than just groceries! Use them for clothes, school supplies and more. You can get a $5 off coupon for Shoe Carnival.
3. Don’t discount discount stores. Many “discount” retailers such as Walmart have redesigned their clothing lines in recent years and have current trends and styles, at more affordable prices than other retailers.
4. In addition to new, consider gently used. Scour eBay, Craigs List, and online consignment stores for great deals on new to you items at great prices. One online consignment store with great deals I love is ThreadUp.
5. Daily deal sites can mean deep discounts. Some of my favorites right now for cute kids clothing and supplies are Groupon, Brad’s Deals, Eversave, Modnique, Zullily, & Totsy. For school sports gear be sure to check out Leftlane Sports.
6. Price match. See a great price at store A, but have a coupon for store B you want to use? See if they’ll price match! Most major stores will and you’ll be able to score some extra savings.
7. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Go through your kids items and see what might be able to be reused this year. With a good cleaning, you may be able to reuse some of last year’s items.
9. Opt for quality versus quantity. Sometimes cheap isn’t always the best way to go. A little extra investment now may help certain items last longer and give you more time until you have to replace them.
10. Work any warranties. If you’ve purchased some higher end items that have warranties, you might be able to use the warranty to get a free replacement. jacket, buy one that comes with a lifetime warranty. L.L.Bean, Lands’ End and REI are among the companies that will fix or replace worn merchandise for the entire life of a product. So if a backpack gives out in a year, or even 10 years from now, you can pick out a replacement for free.
11. Go Green: According to the Sierra Club, American families spend, on average, $85 per year on disposable plastic baggies. Show your children the value of a waste-free lunch—and save money—by investing in reusable snack and sandwich bags. A few ones you can order from Amazon on a budget can be found here.
12. Compare prices. Wondering if another store might have a better price? Use the free RedLaser app to check pricing w/ this easy and free app. Check out my review here.
13. Stock up. When it’s free or cheap on non-perishable items, it pays to stock up! Keep extras in a safe place where you can find them until your kids need them at a later date.
14. Consign old clothes to pay for new ones. Got closets or totes of old clothes or toys your kids have outgrown? As long as they’re in good condition, you may be able to sell them for some extra spending money. Just be sure they’re clean, free of holes and stain free. If there’s no consignment stores near you consider consigning online at ThreadUp.
15. Brown bag it. School lunches can add up, especially if you have a picky eater who isn’t eating them anyway. Consider having the kids bring their lunch as much as possible and stock up when lunch items like lunch meat, fruit and etc. are on sale.
16. Earn rewards. When ordering school supplies, computers and kids clothes for back to school online, be sure to shop through a reward site like Ebates to earn cash back & extra savings!
17. Join e-mail lists. Sign up for e-mail list for your family’s favorite retailers and for office supply stores to get coupons and other savings.
18. Don’t buy it all now. When it comes to clothing, your kid’s don’t need a full year’s worth of clothes before the first day. Warm weather will enable them to keep wearing summer gear for awhile longer giving you a chance to shop the sales and score better prices.
19. Hold a swap party. Got items your family no longer needs but could still be used by someone else? Hold a swap party with friends and family to trade for items that can be new to you. It’s a great way to get new items on budget and donate any leftovers to charity.
20. Dive into the dollar stores. Don’t forget the dollar stores can be a great place to get school supplies at great prices. They might not have name brands, but for pens, pencils and folders the quality is what you need and you can’t beat the price!
21. Layaway. Found some great deals now, but don’t have the cash to pay? Many retailers are bringing back layaway as an option. Check with your retailer’s customer service counter on availability and pricing.
22. Earn bonuses on prepaid gift cards. Sending your high schooler or college student off to school w/ a prepaid credit card for expenses? You could be earning some great bonuses! Right now get a $10 gift card when you purchase a $50 pre-paid American Express card.
23. Back up kid’s homework files. If your kids are old enough to be doing homework on their computers, be sure you’re backing up files to prevent a crash. One great service is Sugar Sync. You can not only save files, but also access them anywhere with internet access which is great when kids are working on projects from school and home. They are currently offering 5 GB free storage too!!
24. Keep track of your online orders. Want to make sure you know when your online back to school orders are going to arrive? One great free service is UPS My Choice. This service allows you to track shipments, notifies you when packages are being delivered and allows you to reroute or re-schedule when necessary. I use this program regularly and love it!
25. Plan meals ahead. Is the start of school going to make your family’s schedule extra crazy? Use an online meal planner to plan your meals and shopping lists around the sales to save time and headaches. Food on the Table is easy to use and gets rave reviews!
26. Get Organized. Need help juggling all the schedules and info for back to school? Check out About One for an easy way to stay on top of everything for your family. I recently reviewed this service and loved it!
27. Earn some extra income with Avon. Going to have some extra time once the kids are back in class? Avon is seeking representatives in all areas. Click here for more information.
28. Order from Alice.com. This is one of my favorite new places to order online! New customers get 20% off and get free shipping on orders over $49.
29. Use a credit card w/ cash back. Are you using a Discover Card or another credit card to earn rewards w/ your credit card like airline miles or cash back? Be sure you’re getting perks with every purchase.
30. Take inventory. Take inventory of what your family does have, and doesn’t need to replaced. I’ve been having my 8 yer old try on her fall and winter clothes to see what still fits and can be used for this year.
31. Get to a garage sale. As quickly as kids grow, many times they only wear clothing only once or twice before it’s too small. Get past te stigma and cruise the garage sales for bargains and you might be surprised at what you find. Last year I found 5 grocery sacks worth of designer toddler clothing (Gymboree, Gap, Old Navy, etc) for 25 cents an item for my little man at one sale. Most of them with the store tags still attached! Just be sure you examine closely before buying and wash before wearing.
32. Teach about value of money. If older kids are bugging you to spend more than is in your budget, teach them what things cost, and have them help to cover the cost out of their own allowance or earnings. If the brand name sneakers they desire are $20 more than you want to pay, have them chip in to understand the cost and the value. They’ll value the item more, and it’ll help keep your costs low.
33. Keep it simple. Stick with simple colors and classic styles to help clothing last longer and still stay within trends. Items that can be “mixed and matched” offer the most outfit options without the expense.
34. School shop all year round. Back to school shopping doesn’t have to be done in August and September. Watch for sales all year, and stock up when you find some great savings.
35. Stick to the list. Your kids may try to talk you into purchasing additional and unneeded items for school supplies or clothing. Buy only what you need, and “extras” can be purchased only as prices and budgets permit.
36. Shop the sales. There’s some amazing sales this time of year. Watch for the local ones near you and hit them early for the best selection.
Thanks to All You Magazine for a few of these ideas!