Monday, 29 July 2013

Save money by starting your back-to-school shopping now

It's July and my email inbox is already bombarded with dozens of back to school sale announcements. Retailers know this is the second busiest shopping season and they have to start early to get customers through the door and make more money.  Christmas shopping season is number one- if you were wondering. 

Parents can feel a lot of pressure to buy the latest clothes and gadgets for their kids. The pressure doesn’t always come from children either, it can be from long lists sent home from the teacher stating what students “need”. It can  also be your need to get your kids everything their friends have so they don’t feel left out. Whatever the case may be, the back to school season costs parents a lot of money. Here’s a few thing you can do now to keep your costs down and your kids happy.

Do a clothing inventory
Especially if you have several children, its important to look at what you have before you head out the door. Go through your childrens wardrobe and school supplies, see what fits, what can still be worn and what needs to be replaced.  Make a list and stick to it. Don't buy another backpack if last year’s one is still in good shape. Be creative, maybe a trendy new shirt will bring last years jeans up to date and look good throughout the school year.

Take advantage of the sales
Shopping early doesn’t mean summer will end early. Just like you do at Christmas time, make a list and hit the stores early to make sure you get what you want and at the best price possible. With retail sales persistently lower year after year, shop owners want your business and are willing to discount their merchandise to get you through the door.

Don’t buy electronics
They only exception is a laptop, which can be essential for older kids to do their homework and complete assignments. But generally kids heading back to class don’t need a tablet or smart-phone.  These are luxury items that kids may say they need, but they are only what they want. With electronics costing $100s each, these wants can be very pricey to fulfill.

Scrutinize the teacher “must have list”
Just because a teacher sends a list home to parents of what their child needs to attend class, doesn’t mean you have to buy it all. Go through the list and make a note of what is a priority, question any item you think is not important. Ask other parents what they are buying and arrange for kids to share items that might not be used daily.

Save all your receipts
If any item you purchased goes on sale later you can most likely get your bill adjusted. To be safe ask the cashier what the policy is on price adjustments. The big stores often allow up to 30 days for a customer to take advantage of the sale price even if the item has been worn or used. But it’s the consumer’s responsibility to hang-on  to the receipt and keep their eyes on the sales.

Have a clothing swap party
Get together with the other parents in you neighborhood to swap clothes, shoes and school items. With growing kids clothing is often barely used and just sitting in your kids closet. Make it fun with food and drink, and invite the kids to come so they can choose what they like.

Buy the important stuff first
Whatever you budget is, you need to be realistic about the absolute necessities.  School supplies, books and uniforms take priority. With the money left over your kids can buy something fun and trendy, but that can’t be the focus. 

Use student discounts and rewards
Many stores offer students a further discount on items. This may mean signing up for a student card ahead time, but it can be worth it. These cards can save you a lot of money.This is a good time also to take a look at how may rewards points you have racked up on your loyalty cards and if any those points can be applied to school items. Look through the online rewards catalog and find things your kid needs. Some loyalty points can be used in store.

Involve your kids
Every step of the way make sure your child knows what you're buying and how much it costs. It gives kids perspective on how expensive back to school shopping can be. It also helps them learn important life skills around budgeting and shopping.

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