Kids across the country are running around, gleefully soaking up those final days of summer. But for parents, the last weeks of August are a different story. Taking the kids to the store for back-to-school shopping is a chore, and an expensive one at that. According to a 2012 study from Parenting.com and Women and Co., the average back-to-school spending per child is $48 for supplies alone – and that doesn’t even including clothing.
Comparing the country region-by-region, the Midwest seems to be the most frugal when it comes to back-to-school shopping. The aforementioned Parenting.com study shows that the average Midwest mom spends $44 per child on school supplies, while other regions spend slightly more, with Southerners spending the most at $51 per child.
According to the National Retail Federation, the most common ways for parents to cut costs on back-to-school shopping this year will be comparative online shopping, buying generic rather than name brands, and using coupons. A quarter of surveyed families will actually try to keep as many items as possible off of the school supply list by asking kids to dig through their closet and look under their bed to find items they can reuse for the upcoming school year.
For more creative tips on saving money on back-to-school shopping, we chatted with blogger Kendal Perez of HassleFreeSavings.com. Here are her go-to tips for keeping expenses to a minimum this August.
1. Inventory your current supplies
“Be sure to take stock of your existing supplies so you don’t overbuy,” says Perez. Check last year’s backpack, under the bed, in the garage and around the house for any pencils, notebooks or other supplies that could be used a second time around. It’s not uncommon to find unused supplies from the previous school year.
2. Buy tax-free
Perez points out that select states offer tax-free shopping days in early to mid-August. You can find out when and if your state participates here. If you have a long supply list or multiple kids to shop for, it might even be worth making the trip to a neighboring state that offers tax-free shopping.
3. Don’t forget coupons
“Back-to-school is the second heaviest shopping season for retailers, so stores are pushing coupons and deals,” says Perez. There are a number of apps out there that can help you find coupons, but old school newspaper circulars still contain plenty of savings.
4. Organize a swap
Why buy new when you could trade with friends and neighbors? Perez recommends organizing a back-to-school swap with friends and neighbors to exchange unneeded supplies for items on your list. “Some parents may have excess pens and pencils while others find themselves with multiple calculators,” Perez points out.
5. Buy it for a dollar
Don’t forget your local dollar store when shopping for items like highlighters, notebooks and even planners,” says Perez.
6. Buy in bulk
If you know that products will be used later down the line, there’s always value in buying in bulk. “If you have several children or want to minimize next year’s back-to-school shopping, buy items in bulk from your warehouse club store,” says Perez.
Stay tuned the next couple weeks for as we cover more ways to keep costs down as you and your family prepare for the coming school year.