With the start of school a few weeks away, the battle for back-to-school dollars is raging. Who will go to the head of the class on savings? Here are 12 A+ tips from parents on the how they get the most for their money when shopping for school supplies and clothing:
1. Don’t bring the kids
“My parents raised eight. We never went to the store for supplies,” says Theresa Soriano of Smithtown, New York. Soriano has one child — Sal, 15, is a rising high school sophomore — but still she subscribes to her parents’ policy when it comes to notebooks, pens and other staples. “Have you ever been in the back-to-school aisle? The kids are crying because they want something,” Soriano says. She does let her son pick out long-lasting items such as his backpack.
2. Allow one exception to No. 1
Sometimes a store will have a per person limit on mega-sale items — perhaps folders are only 10 cents each, but each buyer is limited to 10. That’s when you strategically utilize the kids, says Denise Schwartz, a stay-at-home mom of three. “You line everybody up with you,” Schwartz says, so each kid can purchase, as well. “You can bring your kids when it’s useful.”
3. Keep supplies no-frills
Theresa Soriano won’t buy the more expensive pencil erasers, for instance, just because they advertise less shedding than traditional erasers. “He doesn’t get the 10 dollar gel pens,” she says.
4. Stock up for the year
With four children, Christina Lipscomb developed this strategy: Stockpile enough supplies on sale over the summer to last the entire academic year. “I have a five-gallon tote that I just put all the school supplies in,” she says. It pays off — not just financially. “On a 5 degree night when they come home and need a new folder and glue sticks, I don’t have to go out,” Lipscomb says.
5. Maximize coupons
Watch circulars and sign up for store and company email blasts alerting followers to specials. A flash sale from Under Armour is how Tara Barnetas of Centereach, New York, with four kids ages 9 to 13, got new backpacks for $33 each that normally retail for closer to $90. “I was like, ‘Score!’ ” she says.
6. Keep an eye on Facebook
Parents who see a fabulous deal will often share it on Facebook, says Laura Barth, an administrator for the Huntington Moms on a Budget Facebook page. “The site is good for that kind of thing, to give you a heads-up,” says the mom of three.
7. Employ rebate and loyalty programs
When you do this, you also earn points or cash back for future savings each time you shop, many parents say.
8. Buy clothing a season ahead
“I try to keep my kids in designer clothes for really cheap,” says Katie Johnson, whose sons are a preschooler and a rising first-grader. The designer tank tops they’re wearing now, for instance, she purchased in January for $8 each at Bloomingdales, she says. And she’s mining end-of-season sale racks now for clothing they’ll sport once it gets colder.
9. Shop in late August for school outfits
If your child really wants some new duds for the first few days, wait until the end of the summer to catch end-of-season sales, some parents suggest. Kids can wear summery styles in September because it’s still warm out.
10. Embrace the outlets
Tiffany Levich couldn’t bring herself to pay $24 each for a designer cap for her 7-year-old son when she knew she could get one for less at the Tanger Outlets in Riverhead, New York. She got two hats for $30 at the Under Armour outlet store, she says. She also favors the Gap Outlet for these types of big savings.
11. Mix, match inexpensive and pricey
Tiffany Levich also watches for department store sales on Ralph Lauren polo shirts, pairing them with less expensive pants from a store such as Walmart to make an overall classy looking outfit. “It’s work,” she says. “I try to get the best price for the coolest clothing.”
12. Reject brand names altogether
“Putting your children in Target clothes is not going to hurt them,” says Joelle Daddino of Yaphank, who home-schools her 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.
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