Back to school shopping rolls around at the end of each summer and can wind up costing a lot of money. From school supplies and school lunches, to new shoes and other clothing, the price tag often adds up quickly. In 2015, the National Retail Federation estimated parents of children in Kindergarten through grade 12 spent an average of $630.36, up from $443.80 a decade ago.
Fortunately, there are some clever ways to get everything you need while saving money, too. From shopping the sales, to preplanning your packed lunches, there are easy ways to save money and time. These are some of our favorite back to school hacks.
Save On Back to School Supplies
1. Check out gift card sites
Shoppers can often save 5 to 10 percent by purchasing gift cards at a reduced price on sites like GiftCards.com. Pair those savings with other sales for a discount worth mentioning.
2. Wait to purchase clothing
As the new school season comes in, stores stock up on fresh clothes for fall. As soon as the kids see the new boots, jeans, jackets and accessories, they want it all. Everyone wants to look cool for the start of a new school year! But before you know it, stores will be stocking up for winter and the fall clothes will go on sale. Wait a few weeks and you’ll save money.
3. Make old clothing new again
Just because clothes look well-loved doesn’t mean they are destined for the dump. Try to figure out ways that some simple DIY repair can create an all-new appearance. Cover holes and stains with playful patches; dye shirts; add embroidery; and consider transforming a dress into a shirt or skirt with a little sewing prowess.
4. Shop tax-free where you can
Currently there are 19 states that offer a tax-free shopping weekend in August for all the back to school necessities. While programs vary slightly state to state, the gist is the same: you save money while preparing for a new school year. The states that participate as of 2016 are Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Vermont, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Connecticut and Texas.
5. Spread the Wealth
If you have a variety of stores within a reasonable distance, it’s best to shop around when you’re trying to save money. Many stores rotate their sales so you can find great deals on glue and scissors at one place, and a bargain on backpacks elsewhere. Likewise, you c\an purchase pens at a discount one week, then paper and a printer at the same place the following week.
6. Utilize rebates
Rebates, which offer a certain amount of money back to shoppers after paperwork is mailed in, often provide the best deal. The catch, of course, is that you must send the paperwork back, which can be tough for some people. If you’re willing to do so, utilizing the rebates is a helpful way to save money.
Tips on School Lunches
The cost of school lunches can add up quickly. Whether your kids are buying lunch at school, or you’re paying for pre-made lunches like lunchables, the price can add up. We couldn’t miss out on some back to school hacks all about lunch! Use those leftovers, prep ahead of time and plan out your school lunches to save money and time. Here are some of our favorite lunch-centric back to school hacks:
1. Go bento
We’re going to assume you already know that the easiest way to save money on lunches is to make your own. That said, reduce the cost of a million baggies and pack lunches in a bento box or subdivided lunch box. Not only are you saving funds, you’re cutting down on waste in a cute, functional way.
2. Avoid snack size portions
While it is much easier to toss a bag of chips or snack-size baggie of pre-packaged carrots into a lunch, reduce the cost by purchasing a large bag of the food and parring it down into baggies.
3. Cook and prepare on the weekend
After a long day’s work, few people feel motivated to make a healthy school lunch. Take some time on the weekend to prepare the week’s lunches and either freeze or refrigerate the food in advance. Slice a block of cheese, boil some eggs or prepare a pasta salad on Sunday, so that it’s easy to pack on Wednesday. You can make these barbecue chicken sloppy joes ahead of time and prep them for the kiddos to take to school.
There are a lot of fun ways you can repurpose leftovers for a playful kids lunch! Some of our favorites include:
4. Ditch the ice pack
Rather than buy reusable ice packs and juice boxes, fill a thermos (not glass) halfway with juice the night before school. Freeze overnight, and then fill the remainder of the thermos with juice in the morning. Not only does the juice thaw during the day, but it keeps the remainder of the lunch cold. This can be playful and fun! Try water with frozen fruits, like lemons, strawberries, or blueberries. It will keep them hydrated and give a little bit of flavor to their water.
With the average cost of going back to school increasing each year, it’s no wonder parents seek cost-saving measures. Employ these strategies to spare your wallet the extra work. These are some of our favorite back to school hacks! What are your go-to money saving tips when back to school season rolls around? Let us know in the comment section below!