In less than two weeks, most Barry County school districts will be back in session. As families prepare for the start of classes, they will be spending much of their free time shopping for supplies and back-to-school clothing and shoes. According to the United States Census Bureau, in August of 2011, families spent $7.7 billion at clothing stores and $2.4 billion as book stores. Much of this money could likely be attributed to back-to-school preparations. This week, I have perused the Internet in search of money-saving tips for back-to-school shopping. Some of my favorite finds are included below.
* Be patient. Parenting.com suggests waiting until after the school year has started to purchase trendy gear, such as lunch boxes. Children often select a version of an item while back-to-school shopping and then wish for another version after seeing what their friends are using. In addition to avoiding purchasing two versions of the same item, parents can often find items at a discount after the school year begins.
* Take inventory. Mint.com recommends making a list of your child's wardrobe and prioritizing needs before shopping begins. New items can be paired with older garments to freshen up a closet. Also, even though it is tempting to get winter shopping out of the way in August, children won't need winter coats or boots for the first few months of school and clothing will likely go on sale before the holidays.
* Use technology. Abcnews.go.com encourages parents to download the Google Shopper app, which allows parents to scan a product's bar code and shows the prices for the item at other stores in the area. Retailers also offer apps that provide information on discounts, or parents can "like" retailers on Facebook to receive information on special shopping deals.
* Join forces. Greatschools.org advises groups of parents to get together to negotiate a group discount or simply buy supplies in bulk. All children will need pencils, paper, glue sticks and notebooks. Dollar stores, warehouse stores and eBay offer bulk rates on many of these supplies.
* Share with others. Yard sales are often a great way to find gently used items that can be combined with new items to provide children with a unique wardrobe. Slightly used items can also be purchased at consignment stores or through groups on Facebook. Hosting clothing swap parties is another great way to get gently used items. In addition to offering an opportunity to exchange kids clothes, these events can be a fun time for moms to relax together before the busy school year begins.
* Think ahead. Organizedhome.com proposes using back-to-school shopping ventures as a jump start for Christmas. For instance, clearance-priced school supplies, such as pens and pencils, can be used as stocking stuffers. This is a great way to give kids gifts they can use when school resumes after the winter holiday break.
* Be prepared. Frugaldad.com suggests beginning a back-to-school fund a year before shopping begins. Families often start funds for vacations, Christmas gifts and other once-a-year expenses. Keep track of back-to-school expenses this year and use that as a cost estimate for next year's budget. Divide this year's expense by 12 months and make a point to deposit that amount into the designated back-to-school fund each month. Next year, you will not only have cash available for shopping but a budget to limit spending.
I hope these tips help area parents save on back-to-school expenses this year. If you have other tips for Barry County families, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your advice on our Facebook page.