Don't Lose Your Shirt: Back-to-School Savings Tips

Remember when you were a kid, the entire summer seemed to stretch forever? Well, at least until you started seeing and hearing commercials for back-to-school sales. If you were like me, you couldn’t wait to get new supplies like Jansport backpacks, Trapper Keepers, notebooks, Lisa Frank folders, pens and pencils (okay, I’m dating myself here — I did eventually move on to binders).

To be honest, I never owned a Jansport backpack, although I’ll fess up to having a Trapper Keeper or two and lots of unicorn-plastered Lisa Frank folders. Instead, I went to Woolworth’s with my $20 bill and got a backpack for about $15, and it lasted me a few years. The big secret? I still own both of my high school backpacks, and Mr. Saver uses one in the summer to carry his stuff when we trek “down the shore.”

Instead of spending a ton of money on back-to-school supplies and clothing, plan ahead and shop smart.

Check the Circulars

Since early July, I’ve been seeing tons of back-to-school sales advertised in my Sunday newspaper (yes, those still exist, my friends).  There are some incredible deals in there – one local drugstore has a coupon this week for 10 one-subject notebooks for 1 cent! All you have to do is clip the coupon and show up. Staples also has similar deals for pencils.

Most stores offer coupons of some sort — the kind you have to physically clip out and bring with you — but the discounts are worth it in the end.

Shop During “Sales Tax Holidays”

At certain times of the year, such as Christmas and before school starts, major cities, such as Miami, offer sales tax-free shopping days. Take advantage of these periods and get your clothes and supplies, minus the sales tax. This is especially advantageous for those who have a number of children who need back-to-school stuff.

Get Clothes on the Cheap

Bargain-basement prices can be had if you wait a few weeks after school starts before shopping for clothes. By mid-September, the fall styles are already hitting the discount rack, so bide your time and then attack the clearance sales with gusto!

Alternately, you can choose to shop at discount retailers. Many years my clothes came from Kmart, and while not extremely fashionable, they were new. Right now, I’ve found that Kohl’s almost always sends coupons in the mail ranging from 15% to 30% off your entire purchase (no restrictions) if you’re a Kohl’s credit card holder. Just make sure you pay off the balance in full to avoid finance charges.

Or check out thrift shops and consignment stores. You never know what you’ll find in there — and it won’t cost you full retail price, either.

Don’t Pay Full Price for Books

In college? Nothing hurts your budget more than the high price of textbooks in the college bookstore. If you have time before classes begin, search out cheaper alternatives such as Half.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Sometimes you can even score a great deal on a new or used textbook on eBay. Just make sure it’s the right edition requested by your professor.

Or try to buy your books from fellow students who are done using them. It’s bound to be cheaper than buying them used from the bookstore. I know it always was for me back in the day.

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