Friday, August 12, 2011

Dear Shopping Savage...

Dear Shopping Savage,

I have three children all gearing up to go back to school in a few weeks. They all want "new this" and "new that" and we're just not there financially as a family. My husband and I did set aside a little money for back-to-school expenses, but can you recommend ways to make that money stretch? And before you mention it, if they were old enough for jobs, trust me, I would have put them to work!


Short on Back to School Funds


Dear S.B.S.F.,

Gearing up for a new school year has always been a double-edged sword for parents. On the one hand you're happy to have (successfully) survived another summer with your kids at home, but then there's the cost of sending them back to school. And in today's financial world, with budget cuts leaving many education institutions strapped for cash, parents have to shoulder not only the brunt of revamping their child's wardrobe but now, also supplying school supplies that used to be provided.

With that said, you need to plan out your shopping strategically. First, have your kids make a list of all the things they need for the new year. Extract their "wants" from their "needs" and prioritize the list in that order. The first thing kids always claim they need is new clothes. Take the time to launder, organize and access each kid's closet. Pull out what they don't like anymore, haven't worn in a year or outgrew. If any of those articles of clothing can be handed down to a sibling then that's one less thing for you to buy; for everything else, plan to consign it to free up extra cash.

Scour store sales papers to see who has the best back to school deals and when. You may want to take a wall calendar or schedule and map out the sales just to give yourself a visual aid. Since most people won't think to get to the store until the day of the sale, you should plan to go a day before the sale starts to get first pick at the best inventory of soon-to-be sale items and put them on hold till the next day. This will give you a night to sleep on the options you chose and even time to go over them with your kids so you don't waste your money on something they may not like.

In addition to the sale, check online for store coupons. Go to the individual websites but also doing a quick generic online search for coupons for whichever store you want may also work in your favor. If your state has a tax-free weekend, take advantage. Every dollar saved, after all, is still a dollar saved.

For more tips on how to cut the cost on back to school spending, this article was chock-full of great advice.

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