Monday, June 6, 2011

Back To School Savings Start Now

In many parts of the country, schools have let out for summer. It's the golden days of sleeping late, barbecues with friends and enjoying our vacations. My own family is having a blast and enjoying every lazy minute possible. We're also getting ready for back to school. I know. We just put away the backpacks and are slathered on sunscreen. Why on earth would we even want to remotely think about school?

Because it saves us time and money. And it's really, really easy.

If you purchase what you need just a little at a time, then you aren't going to feel the crunch later.  Luckily, there are a lot of bargains now so you don't have to wait until the last two weeks of summer for a sale. Here is a look at our family's back to school game plan. It is easy to follow and even easier to modify to suit your own needs.

I want to get as much back to school stuff out of the way and do it as painlessly as possible. I don't want to spend all my time hunting things down and I don't want to spend a fortune, either. The local schools send out a supply list with the reports cards (it's also on the Board of Education website). I keep a copy of those lists in my purse. If I come across a great value then I'll buy it, cross it off the list and put it in the Supply Box in the closet. I'm also going to slowly pick up the standard things all students need: glue sticks, pencils, rulers, some posterboard, etc. I'm not going to get this all at once. I'll buy a little something this week, maybe something next week. I'm just doing this in my own time, and making no special trips to the store. This also gives me plenty of time to go back and double check to make sure I've got everything.

One of my children takes lunch to school and both love their afternoon snacks. During the summer months, there are big sales on snack foods, juice pouches and peanut butter. Look for items with a long shelf life. Use your coupons to get these things for the summer and get an extra package to put away for the school year. Since we are in high gear with picnic season, also look for plastic forks and spoons to tuck in their lunchboxes. With a small amount of diligence you can literally stockpile enough snacks and drinks to get you through to Christmas break. Just be sure to place them in a place the kids can't get to. Also look for sandwich and snack -sized sip bags, reusable juice boxes, cold packs, lunch boxes and a thermos. Don't forget to use your sales and coupons. Remember to pick up an extra lunch box because they have a tendency to be forgotten at school.

Shopping for back to school clothes is supposed to be fun, not a headache. After all, it symbolizes a new chapter in your child's life. Buy the shoes early. It may not be the most frugal thing you do, but it will preserve your sanity. One year I waited until about three days before the school bell rang and I suffered because of it. My son always has a hard time finding a proper, comfortable fit and I should have known better. We were hot, frustrated, tired, and just plain mad after shopping several hours everyday looking for a good shoe. Never again. I get those knocked out about a month before school starts.  In our area, the weather will be hot until mid October. When the traditional back to school clothes (i.e. long sleeves) hit the racks, the summer clothes will end up on the sales racks. If you have a Next Size Up box, shop there first. Next, grab a few shorts and tops here and there. Don't forget to check out some high-end resale shops. I have a  'Save $5 off a $25 purchase of kids' clothing' gift card that I'm going to combine with a clearance sale. I should be able to walk away with several outfits. I'm also going to use some register-printed coupons to stock up on socks and underwear. There is no need to buy an entire wardrobe. Most of the clothes your child is wearing will still fit at the beginning of the new school year. Combined with a few  new things and you should be set for a while. Taking your climate into consideration, you may also need a few pairs of pants and a lightweight jacket in the event you get an early cold snap.

My kids and I enjoy every second of summer. I don't want to spend the last days running around in an unhappy crowd of frustrated and cranky people, searching for everything under the sun. I would rather take those last days and use them for vacation, movies, or just hugging my kids and playing games all day.

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