Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saving on Back to School

With a child in school and from all my college years, here are some tips to help save on going back to school!!

1. Save Unused Items From the Previous Year. Emma's ruler was barely touched last year so I kept it for this year and used it around the house throughout the summer. Her used binders and folders become places to showcase her work throughout the year, and organizes all of it by subject/month/season. 

2. Check Notebooks for Left Over Paper. I cannot imagine the amount of paper thrown on the last day of school. I try to buy the notebooks with the perforated edges. At the end of the school year, remove the unused pages and put them in a binder. I use those instead of buying loose leaf paper the following year.

3. Save pens, pencils, markers. Although they may not be decent enough to keep for the following year, most left over writing supplies will work well in the home. All of Emma's crayons and colored pencils are put in a bin for the other kids in the house to use. That way I don't have to go out and buy new crayons, markers, colored pencils every time the kids decide to color. Holding on to pens is nice too, we are always running out... and there are only so many banks that hand out free ones.. haha. You may still have to buy new stuff for your student, but at least you are cutting back supply expenses at home.  

4. Invest in a Durable Backpack. Pay extra for the nice canvas or leather bag. It will last a lot longer and hold everything better, giving your back a little rest. This may be difficult with younger students because they are so apt to choose popular TV characters, but as most of us know those bags are just that and won't last the year. Also make try to scope out ones that offer built in laptop cases, multiple size pockets, a secure place for keys/phone/ipod, and padded arm straps are always nice to have on big homework days.

5. Skip the Paper Bags and Plastic Baggies. Use plastic containers from around your home. Tupperware works great and they have a wide variety of products. For those of us on an even smaller budget, keep the plastic containers that you get from the store. Chip dip containers are great for pudding or fruit, Cottage Cheese containers can hold a good deal of spaghetti or salad. Even plastic bottles can be refilled with juice, kool-aid, or milk! Wax paper makes a nice wrap for sandwiches. Find a inexpensive and reusable bag to put it all in. The plainer the better, let the kids design their own!!

6. Don't Be Afraid of Thrift Stores! Anyone can find awesome deals at the local Salvation Army/Goodwill. It may not be brand-spankin' new, but if it is not ripped, torn or stained, and still looks pretty good it will work. No one is going to know where you bought it unless you tell them. For you "name-branders" out there, a lot of new stores are opening that specialize in labels like DKNY, Hilfiger, Ed Hardy, etc. Many places will also give you credit for anything you bring in!

7. Skip the "Must-Have" Electronics. I am sorry, but a 10 year old doesn't need an iPad. Although it may be a handy tool to use, students can use a computer and get the same information. I would have loved to have one of those pens that takes notes right onto your computer and records the lecture at the same time. I was not, however, willing to pay the $120 price tag. Laptops and new computers are another thing you can skip. Chances are the school, your home and the local library have public computers (otherwise how would you be reading this?). If the school requires students to have laptops, then the school needs to provide them. People have received an education for hundreds of years without the use of electronics.

8. Ask About Scholarship Opportunities. It seems like every week Emma brings home another flier for a sport or after school activity. We are usually on a tight enough budget where a $5-10 fee is about it. Have you seen the cost to play hockey these days?!?! It's insane! A couple years ago, Emma really wanted to give a go at the violin. I was really against it because it was close to $300 for lessons (for the school year). Which yea, in a sense is a good deal, but like I could afford that.... its a rent payment! So I went to the office and asked about a scholarship... and what do ya know?! They had one!! With some special program I was able to get a discounted rate and instrument rental. The part that was even better? I didn't have to pay a dime upfront, because of the program I was able to deduct the fee from my income tax return!
Just remember-- it never hurts to ask!

9. Shop Ahead- Clearance Sales. Every parent knows what their child is going to need ahead of time. One thing for us, snow pants and jackets. Kids grow fast, so for quite a while you will have to replace snow stuff every year. It pays to shop the end of season clearance sales (Jan-Mar for snow stuff). Plan on purchasing snow gear for the following winter, during the spring close-out. Buy items a couple sizes up to allow for growth. Chances are you will save at least 25-50% off retail cost. Same can work out for clothing: buy fall/winter clothing in the spring.... spring/summer clothing in the fall. It will save a ton!!

10. Shop Around for Textbooks.Half.com and Amazon are great places to look. All you have to do is search by the ISBN (the bar code on the back). Always make sure you purchase the correct edition, although there are very few changes between editions, it can be a headache for a student when it comes to reading assignments and information  Another new option that is becoming more popular is textbook rental. Campusbooks offers text book rental for those on a really tight budget. Only downfall of renting is you cannot write or highlight in the actual book... which is a pain. Basically, if you aren't able to use financial aid for books (and even if you do) always look around first. School bookstores are overpriced for new books. Unless you know it is a book that you will want to keep around for a while, buy used. 

Well, there are a few! I would love to hear your ideas on how to save! Please feel free to comment and follow! Have a great school year!

~ Sara

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