How to Shop the Back-to-School Sales Like a Pro

back to school
Back-to-School Shopping Made Easy—and Fun
If your kids haven’t even gotten around to emptying last year’s backpack of composition notebooks, granola bar wrappers, well-loved Thinking Putty, and wrinkled notes, it’s time. Though you may be settling into lazy days poolside, back-to-school shopping will soon be upon you. Being well-prepared will minimize the stress of jumping into a new school year—and help you take advantage of back-to-school sales. Whether you are a seasoned, glue-stick-buying veteran, or sending your child off to preschool for the very first time, there are some simple strategies to ease the hassle of stocking that backpack and setting the tone for a fabulous year.

8 Tips for Better Back-to-School Shopping

SC Telco not only wants to help make your upcoming school year less stressful, but we want to suggest ways you can save a little money in the process. Here are eight ways you can make back-to-school shopping feel more manageable and fun.

1. Out with the old.

Like we said, if your child’s backpack is still bursting at its seams get that backpack emptied out! Discard old notebooks, broken crayons, outdated daytimers, and assignment books. If there are basic supplies that can be used again this coming year, set them aside and cross them off of your shopping list. Such things are typically calculators, scissors, three-ring binders still in good condition, dictionaries, notepads, etc.

2. Devise a plan of attack.

Once you clear away the old and set aside what can be reused (either by the same child, or the next one in line), it’s time to figure out just what you need. If you have a supply list from your children’s school(s), refer to that first. If not, we recommend sticking to the tried-and-true basics that most schools and teachers find workable in the classroom. If you feel overwhelmed and are not sure how to pare that list down—for any age student—check out this practical list. For families with multiple children, consider making a separate list for each child. If your calendar has a lot of open slots of free time (OK, fine, who are we kidding? But one can dream!), your kids might enjoy individual back-to-school outings. If not, maybe parents can divide and conquer, or local grandparents, aunts, and uncles can join in the fun. If you can one-stop-shop, even better.

3. Why put off till August what you can do in July?

It is so tempting to ignore that day on the calendar until it simply refuses to be ignored any longer. After all, you’re enjoying sleeping in till 10:30 (or at least 8:30, if your kids are merciful!) The last thing you want to think about is homework, car pick-up lines, and school lunches. But the truth is, taking care of it sooner rather than later will reduce stress. You’ll avoid crowds, have a much better selection before popular items are picked over, and will find some early bird back-to-school specials. In addition to shopping early in stores, you can often find early bird savings with online shopping. Some companies will offer free shipping on orders placed before certain dates. So take a day off from the beach or theme park and sneak in a day of shopping for school supplies.

4. Look for sales and coupons.

Even though no one item on the school supply list is likely to break the bank, they can add up quickly, especially if you have several children or if your kids play sports or instruments that require pricey equipment. The large, big-box stores like Wal Mart, Target, and Staples are always offering sales and coupons for back-to-school supplies. Take advantage of those great deals and save money now. If you are not an expert on the fine art of coupon clipping, appeal to your friends who are, or look to Google for some help. There are websites whose goal it is to hunt down the best savings for you. Here is a good starting place.

Another great money-saving strategy to consider is buying supplies in bulk.  This approach is especially helpful for large families, or even school teachers who are hoping to buy some specific items for their classrooms. There are some great online resources for buying in bulk or wholesale.  Wholesale shopping is great for basic items like pocket folders, erasers, writing utensils, hand sanitizer, etc.  Of course most children will want to make personal choices on some items, so collaborate with them and allow them to choose a few things to leave off the wholesale list and purchase in-store where there is fun variety and opportunity for self-expression.

Are there any items that you might purchase used? Athletic equipment and instruments can often be the most expensive things on your list, but they can also be the easiest things to get second hand. Student cellos and clarinets need not be brand new or fancy to be appropriate for school music programs. The same is true for things like lacrosse sticks, equestrian gear, and other sporting equipment. Other families in your school or community are a great resource for passing down these items, as are craigslist and eBay.

Also, check to see if your state offers a sales tax-free shopping window designed to help families save money on school supplies. The 2018 SC dates are from 12:01 a.m. on the first Friday of August until midnight of the following Sunday. Many other states offer similar deals. That’s effortless savings for you!

5. Dress codes are our friends.

New clothes might be the single most exciting purchase your child is looking forward to in preparation for the new school year. If you have a teenage girl, you know what we’re talking about! The new clothes (for exactly this reason) can also be one of the more challenging items on your list—negotiating with children’s strong opinions and sometimes eccentric styles or insistence on sticking with name brands only.

Enter dress codes and uniforms. These two little miracles take some pressure off of us parents when it comes to shopping for school clothes. Now we have some parameters to work within. How crazy can things possibly get when shorts have to be at least to the fingertips? So before you head to the clothing aisles, make sure you have a clear understanding of the limitations and requirements of the school’s dress code. No child wants to get excited about wearing a fantastic new outfit only to find out it isn’t allowed at school.

If your children attend a public or private school with uniforms, your job is even easier! Wal Mart, Kohls, Target, and other large chain stores carry a standard selection of school uniform items. And online companies like Lands’ End and Academy, Ltd offer back-to-school discounts and free shipping.

Finally, if your kids are teenagers, now is the perfect time to encourage them to budget and shop for their own clothes and accessories. Consider setting a back-to-school clothing budget and providing wardrobe basics but allowing your older children to be responsible for anything above and beyond these foundational pieces.

6. Oh yeah! That last summer haircut.

We all know how long it can take to get haircut appointments with our favorite hairstylist. We also know how challenging it is to fit in haircuts during the school year, squeezing them in between trips to the orthodontist, soccer practice, and birthday parties. Don’t wait till the last minute to make that appointment. Take care of it now, and aim for an appointment as close as possible to the first day of school. And while you’re at it, take care of other appointments as well—like sports physicals and annual eye exams. Getting those out of the way now will lighten the congestion of your fall schedule.

7. Don’t forget to make it fun!

Back-to-school shopping will only be drudgery if you allow it to be. Try to make it fun. After all, a new year represents progress, growth, and excitement. If you infuse your shopping experience with that perspective, you and your children are sure to have a great time. Mark the day on the calendar and get your kids excited about it. Let them countdown the days. Listen to goofy music on the radio while you drive from store to store. Give your children freedom and opportunity to make individual choices within the parameters of the required supply list. He might need a particular three-ring binder, but he can choose whether it’s super heroes or Dalmatian puppies. Allow them input on things like lunch boxes and backpack designs, then they will be more invested in taking care of their things and not forgetting them under the bus seat or on the playground.

8. Celebrate your hard work and accomplishment.

Let’s face it, shopping is hard work. We work up a sweat and a big appetite. Once you have everything crossed off that list, choose a way to celebrate—and let your children have a vote. Finish the day with a meal at their favorite restaurant or trip to their favorite ice-cream shop. Play putt-putt golf. See a last summer movie. Whatever you and your family love to do for fun!

BONUS TOP SECRET INSIDER TIP: If you are one of those families who loves to skip right to dessert and celebrating, then shopping online might be just the ticket for you! There are plenty of online options for procuring those school supplies from the calm and comfort of your air-conditioned home. For example, Amazon Prime Day features amazing deals for back-to-school, including deep discounts and coupons for books, clothing, and supplies. Once you’ve clicked “Submit Order” you can get on with the business of celebrating!

At SC Telco, we celebrate your family’s progress and growth with you. Your future is our future. We can help you plan and save for anticipated school-related expenses over the course of the year.

The new school year is also a great time to kick off your child’s financial education, teaching him the value of saving, budgeting, and planning. And it’s never too early to start saving for a college education. We’d love to meet with you and your child to help her start saving today. Give us a call and make an appointment to meet with one of our service specialists—right along with that last summer haircut and sports physical!

SC Telco

Federal Credit Union

SC Telco Federal Credit UnionSM is committed to improving the financial lives of the members we serve.

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