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5 Creative Ways to Shop for School on a Budget

5 Creative Ways to Shop for School on a Budget

These savvy tips will help your kid have the best year ever–without breaking your bank!

Every year the list seems to get longer: two bulk packs of Sharpies (thin points, please); Post-it Notes in assorted sizes, eight glue sticks. Parents can blow through hundreds of dollars on school supplies—and that’s before buying lunchboxes, new shoes, and backpacks. Joanie Demer, co-founder of The Krazy Coupon Lady, a leading money-saving site, shares savvy tips for back-to-school shopping. If you want to save big, she says, after school starts in the fall is the ideal time to buy for the following year.  But if you can’t plan a full year in advance, don’t worry–there are plenty of other ways to save on supplies.

Host a School Supply Swap

Send your elementary school-age kids on a scavenger hunt to find pencils, notebooks, crayons, and folders—anything that could be used at school—hiding around the house. Then invite some other parents and children over to trade unneeded supplies for the ones they can use. It’s a win-win!

Penny Deals Will Help You Score Big

At this time of year, stores are known to sell school supplies as “loss leaders,” meaning they’re priced so low the store loses money on them. Stores do this to lure you into buying pricier items while you’re shopping. At Staples, for example, you can often get up to eight pencils for 1 cent. “The trick is to just buy the pencils and then walk away!” Demer says.

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Compare Prices at Many Different Stores

Comparison shop to find the best prices on the items you need. For instance, perhaps you “buy spiral notebooks, crayons, and glue sticks from Walmart, ballpoint pens and scissors at Target, and Dixon Ticonderoga pencils on Amazon,” Demer suggests.

And don’t overlook dollar stores. They tend to be a great year-round source for name-brand supplies—think Crayola crayons, Elmer’s glue, Bic pens—at a lower cost than big box stores.

Shopping Online Might Be Your Best Bet

There are a few online services that can help you save, Demer suggests. When you shop online through Paribus, it tracks the items you purchase and will help you get money back when the price drops. And when you shop via sites such as Ebates and RetailMeNot, you can earn up to 10 percent of your purchase in cash back from various retailers.

Buy Extra for Next Year–Or Next Semester

If you see a great deal on basics from brand names, buy extra. You may need to replenish your kid’s stash mid-year. Plus, it’s likely that whatever is on this year’s list will be needed for next year too.

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