To your kids, shopping for new clothes, gear, and school supplies may be the only good thing about going back to school, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune every year. Here are 10 great ideas for how to get everything they need and save a few bucks doing it.
Hold off buying trendier gear like lunch boxes and pencil cases. Kids may love a version they find in July, but once they start school and see that their friends are all using another kind, they'll beg you to upgrade them -- and that only results in wasted cash.
Shop end-of-summer sales. You know as well as we do that kids wear short sleeve polo shirts all year long, so hit the big summer sales and snap up discounted duds that can be worn well into fall.
Stick to The List. The teacher's supply list at the start of a new school year is daunting enough so don't waste time and money on unlisted items. Extra supplies, while they may be cute, will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty.
Head to the supermarket for basic supplies. Check weekly circulars for great deals on pens and loose-leaf paper, and get your weekly grocery shopping done at the same time. Bonus: buying everything in one place will save time and gas money!
Let your kids raid the home-office supplies, then personalize them in unique ways. For example, decorate inexpensive plain, white binders with digital photos by creating a collage and inserting the page into the plastic outer cover.
Host a back-to-school swap. Round up a couple of other moms with kids the same gender as yours but different ages, and host an annual clothes swap. Trade toys and books, too! You'll save a bundle.
Plan lunch. When you're in charge of what your child eats, you'll save yourself money. Check the weekly circulars at your local supermarkets for sales. If turkey isn't on sale one week and ham is, go for the ham!
Buy bright. Lost school supplies may be a given, but gear that's hard to miss can stave off the inevitable. Pack all their pencils, erasers, and other goodies into a bright backpack or pencil pouch to keep them from disappearing.
Shop the big three. Old Navy, Gap Kids, and The Children's Place rotate merchandise often -- ask when they do their markdowns so you can grab the deals. Also, if you see an item you bought in the past 14 days on sale later, you can get the difference refunded, you don't need the clothing, just the receipt.
Browse craigslist.org. Yes, you can find top-quality stuff on the cheap, but you can be a seller, too. Why not get some cash for that barely worn, now outgrown brand-name outfit? Just enter your location and click on "Baby and Kids."