While the summer season may still be in full force, the start of the school year is not too far off. In a few weeks, parents will be getting letters in the mail with their children’s room assignments, teachers, and a long list of school supplies.

Whether your children are in elementary school or heading off to college, they’ll probably need some new supplies to make this year the best yet.

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Back to School Shopping Tips

Rather than wait until the last minute, check out these top tips for saving money on back-to-school shopping. You may be surprised by how many back-to-school deals you can find if you look hard enough!

Back to School Deals

Check Social Media

Everybody is online these days, including most stores and companies. Be sure to check out the social media accounts for any of the stores that you plan on getting school supplies from.

For instance, Target features plenty of videos, ads, and promotions on their Facebook page, making it a great resource for parents.

The store even offers back-to-school sales exclusively for teachers so be sure to check on that before the new school year arrives.

Walmart is another popular retailer for back-to-school items and they also have some awesome deals on college essentials such as dorm furniture and bedding.

Their Facebook page features Q&As with Walmart employees about the best deals as well as tips on how to shop for college supplies.

Of course, they’ve got plenty of items for school-aged kids as well so be sure to check them out online.

Other stores that you might want to visit on Facebook or Twitter include Staples, Office Depot, and Best Buy.

They’ve got everything from folders and notebooks to pens and highlighters as well as high-tech laptops for older students.

In addition, many retailers have mobile apps that consumers can download to their phones for extra savings.

Target has the Cartwheel app, which allows for faster, easier shopping and app-exclusive discounts. The Walmart app is great for pre-ordering and then picking up your items in store.

The Best Buy app has a cool feature where consumers can scan an item in the store and compare the price with similar items, ensuring that they get the best deal.

Drop by the Dollar Store

While the dollar store isn’t a one-stop shop for all of your school supplies, you may find some unexpected back-to-school deals here.

The dollar store is an awesome place for basics such as notebooks, folders, pencils, poster board, and rulers.

They can also be a good place to shop for things such as hand sanitizer and Kleenex tissue, items that many elementary school students are asked to bring on the first day of school.

Students who are entering college or returning to campus in the fall can even find some useful kitchen gadgets or small odds and ends for their dorm or shared apartment.

Another popular store is Five Below, which sells products that range from $1 to $5. Here, you can find school supplies, dorm accessories, and small electronic items such as phone covers and laptop cases.

The store also sells basic art supplies and they’ve been growing their clothing collection, particularly things such as socks, T-shirts, and gym wear. If your child is in need of any of these things, be sure to hit Five Below now to get the best selection.

Reuse What You Can

Before you start your back-to-school shopping, it would be a good idea to take stock of what you already have at home.

Maybe you stocked up on composition books last year so you don’t need to buy any new ones this year.

Some items that you might already have floating around the house include things such as pens and pencils, erasers, handheld pencil sharpeners, and rulers.

You should also see if you can reuse some items from last year. For instance, your child’s backpack may still be in good condition so if you think that it can last another year, this will save you some money.

Moreover, your children may have pencil cases or binders from last year that they can use for the upcoming school year.

The same concept applies to college students. They can probably reuse their bedding, area rugs, trash cans, desk lamps, and technology such as their phone and laptop.

Kids and teens will always want to get new clothes for the new school year but encourage them to continue wearing any clothes that still fit.

If everyone’s up for it, a clothing swap can be a fun, no-cost way to update a wardrobe. Have your kids and their friends get together and bring along any clothing that no longer fits or they would like to get rid of.

Everyone can have fun swapping clothes and it will feel as if they’ve gone shopping for new threads.

Another idea is thrift shopping, which teens may take a particular interest in. You can encourage them to purchase second-hand clothing, using their own money if they have it!

This appeases their inner fashionista while instilling in them an idea that they don’t need “new” products.

Save Money Back to School

Saving on School Uniforms

Now, if your children need to wear uniforms to school, then your situation is a bit different but there are

still plenty of back-to-school sales on uniforms. First of all, check to see if your child’s school offers a uniform exchange or any deals for families on a budget.

More schools (even public ones) are requiring uniforms these days and they know that these clothing pieces can be expensive for many families.

Therefore, it never hurts to ask if they have any systems in place to help ease the financial burden.

Another idea is to check out thrift stores and consignment shops because these places often have clothing that meets the general guidelines of many school uniforms, such as khaki pants or black slacks and polo shirts in various colors.

These are pretty easy to come by in places such as Goodwill and local consignment shops. Even large retailers such as Foreman Mills, JCPenney, Target, and Walmart are now carrying clothing that meets these requirements.

These stores often carry uniform brands such as French Toast and Basic Editions. There are also deals online at sites such as CookiesKids.com and DollarDays.com.

Tackling College Textbooks

If you’ve got a student in college, then you know that the textbooks are ridiculously expensive. The thing is that lots of students don’t even purchase textbooks at full price, thanks to the different deals out there.

One of them is to rent the books instead of buying them. After all, students will probably only need the textbook for a single semester so why spend all that money?

Textbook rental services are popular with the college-aged crowd and can make books available to them at a steep discount.

Chegg.com is a common source for rented books as are ecampus.com and textbookrentals.com.

It’s not uncommon to rent a $180 book for $30 for the entire semester. The downside to these sites is that they often charge extra fees for late returns or damaged books so be sure to check the policies before renting.

Another possibility to check with the professors beforehand because they may have some workarounds.

Lots of college professors feel for their students and are just as appalled by the price of textbooks as the students are.

Your child’s professor might have handouts or an online access code for the textbook, especially if only specific parts of the book are being used for the class.

In some cases, it’s worth it to purchase the book. The professor might be taking information from the latest edition of the textbook, in which case it may make sense to buy the new version.

This is often the case in math or science classes in which the new edition features an accompanying online access code.

If your students are faced with this scenario, perhaps they can split the cost with a classmate or friend who is also taking the course. That way, they both get access to the book but they’re not shelling out as much money.

Extracurricular Expenses

It’s great that your child wants to participate in all kinds of school activities, be it band, choir, art club, or a sport.

However, these extracurricular activities can often be expensive so you may have to limit your children to one after-school hobby per semester or year.

This can get tricky, especially if they want to play an instrument or join a sports team, so here are some ways to decrease the cost of equipment and accessories.

If your children want to join a sports team, then try to register them early because this can sometimes come with early-bird rates.

Moreover, it never hurts to look for scholarships or discounts, especially if your kid is a good student or you’re a low-income family.

You may also check out the YMCA for community-based teams, which tend to be less competitive but also less expensive.

As for gear, SidelineSwap.com and PlayItAgainSports.com are websites where people sell and trade their used athletic gear.

This includes things such as hockey sticks, baseball mitts, and cleats. Check garage sales and ask neighbors and friends if they’ve got any sports gear that they’re no longer using.

For gymnastics and dance, register early and see if there are any YMCA or community classes. Maybe the school has a dance or gymnastics club!

You can also check for leotards and tights at thrift stores or consignment shops. Some shoe stores sell ballet, jazz, and tap shoes at half the price.

Your kid might be musically inclined and that’s great but instruments can cost a pretty penny.

Renting an instrument from the school or a site like MusicGoRound.com is a smart choice. Fortunately, many schools have music programs, which saves you from paying for private lessons.

You should also keep in mind that we’ve got a new generation of kids who grew up with the Internet. They may take well to online lessons or YouTube tutorials. There are videos on everything from singing and dancing to any kind of instrument.

For your artsy kid, the dollar store, Five Below, and retailers such as Walmart and Kmart have countless art supplies and you can find great back-to-school deals in the late summer.

Hopefully, these tips will help you support your children’s interests without holding them back.

Remember that limiting your child to just one after-school activity has its advantages. Besides saving you money, it encourages your kid to commit to something rather than dabbling in several different things.

If she focuses her energy on learning the violin but after a year decides that she doesn’t like it, then she can try out something else.

At least she’ll know for sure that the violin isn’t for her since she poured all of her effort into that one extracurricular. Plus, you avoid an over-scheduled and anxious kid!

Back to School Shopping

Exercise Your Power as a Parent

Finally, remember that you have the final say in what your child brings to school this year.

Use your best judgment and keep in mind that students don’t need the latest supplies or high-tech gadgets to do well in school.

Whether you decide to go back-to-school shopping alone or with your kids, remind them that you’re only getting things on their school supplies list.

Encourage college students to focus on the essentials and maybe even work a few hours during the week to save up their own cash.

Sure, it’s not easy to say no to your kids but sometimes being a parent means just saying no.

Instead of focusing on that word, emphasize the positives of saving on back-to-school items. For example, reusing or swapping supplies and clothing is one way to create a more circular economy and take care of the planet.

It also teaches your kids to be thrifty and resourceful, something that will be useful to them for years to come. Your children might not appreciate it now but they’ll come around.

Put your energy into supporting them as they enter this new school year because your commitment to them will outlast a new pair of jeans or fancy laptop.

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