Without a tax-free holiday for school shopping in 2010, it is more important than ever for parents to shop smart.
“To save money while school shopping, compare prices, stick to your list and don’t give in to child wants,” said Michael Rupured, a financial expert with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
Don't toss last year's supplies
To save money on supplies, take an inventory of the supplies your children have left over from last year. “If the crayons aren’t broken and the binder is still in good shape, you don’t have to buy new ones,” he said.
If you don’t have the school’s official supply list, Rupured recommends just buying standard items like pencils, paper and glue.
Once you’ve narrowed down the supply list to the items you truly need, stick to your list. “This may sound easy, but it’s not when your kids see all the latest school items on display,” he said. “My advice is to leave your children at home when you go supply shopping so they won’t beg you to buy everything in sight.”
Buy better, not cheaper
Compare prices before making final purchases, but don’t try to save as much money as possible on school supplies. “Being a smart shopper doesn’t always mean buying the least expensive items,” he said. “Sometimes cheaper isn’t better.”
Clothing is one of the largest expenses related to back-to-school shopping. “New tennis shoes for school are as much a tradition in America as cake on your birthday,” he said.
If your child has specific preferences for shoes and clothing items, Rupured recommends giving him or her a clothing allowance.
“Kids tend to be much more thrifty with their own money than with their parents’ money,” he said. “It’s a valuable learning experience for them, too, as they quickly figure out it’s better to get two or three less expensive items than one brand-name item.”
Buy book bag last
When it comes to buying a new book bag, Rupured says to wait until a week or so after school starts.
“If you can convince your child to wait, virtually every book bag goes on sale,” he said. “You can find many for one-fourth their original cost.”
Many high-quality book bags are guaranteed, so be sure to file away receipts and related paperwork for the future, Rupured said.
Above all, teaching your children to take care of their clothing and school supplies is one of the best money-saving moves you can make.
“Getting them into this habit will save you a lot of money throughout the years,” he said.
(April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)
(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)