School starts in about two weeks (give or take, depending on your school district) here in New Mexico, and if you’re like most parents, the thought of back-to-school shopping strikes fear in your budget.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to the National Retail Federation, spending on back-to-school shopping is second to winter holiday shopping. They say the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend around $630 on back-to-school clothing and supplies.
First, make a plan
Start by getting the supply lists for each of your kid’s classes. With these, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy. Then, make a budget, or at least establish spending caps for clothing and supplies.
Albuquerque Public Schools has general supply lists for K-12 available online, but they encourage you to check with your specific school for exact information.
Before you hit the store, check your closets
Before you fill up a shopping cart, peruse what you already own. Chances are you have extra pens and pencils sitting in a junk drawer or rarely visited storage space.
Price-shop on big-ticket items
Price shopping is a great way to save money, but don’t spend too much time clipping coupons for little things like pencils and pens. These are items you can buy cheap pretty much anywhere, at anytime. Instead, focus your energy on scoring deals on bigger supplies like backpacks, clothing and computers.
Check your local newspaper ads and online coupon sites
Search for sales and coupons in your local paper, sales fliers, the Thrifty Nickel, or online coupon databases like coupons.com.
Sign up for email deals from stores where you shop
This time of year, many leading office supply stores are offering worthwhile discounts just for signing up for their emails. For instance, right now, Staples is offering $10 off a $50 purchase when you sign on to their email list. You can always unsubscribe later if you find their emails are bothersome, or create a separate email account for advertising emails. Personally, I enter my old yahoo email account for mandatory signups—this way I don’t inundate my real inbox with spam.
Shop on a tax-free holiday
The state of New Mexico will be hosting a tax-free weekend, August 7-9, 2015, specifically for back-to-school shoppers. Eligible items include clothing (up to $100 per item), school supplies (up to $30 per item), computers (up to $1,000), and computer-related hardware (up to $500). For more info on New Mexico’s tax-free weekend, visit tax.newmexico.gov/tax-holiday.
Novelty items, like sparkly pens, cute sticky notes and key-ring highlighters are fun, but they won’t help your kid do better in school. That, and they are usually waaay overpriced. Think about it: for the $4 you’d spend on one mini highlighter, you could get an entire pack of full-sized highlighters. If you find yourself tempted, return to your supplies list. If it isn’t on the list, don’t get it.
Check out your local Dollar Tree
Dollar stores are fantastic places for buying school supplies. Everything from notebooks to protractors is just $1.
Shop big chain clothing stores
Large retail stores like Old Navy, Gap and The Children’s Place rotate merchandise often, which means frequent markdowns. Ask a representative when they do their markdowns (it’s usually on a semi-set schedule), so you know when to shop. Then, keep tabs on them. If you see an item you recently bought on sale, they will credit you the difference. You just need your receipt.
Always save your receipts
Speaking of receipts, it’s a good idea to save them all, in addition to the ones for clothing purchases. If you buy an item and discover it goes on sale shortly after you’ve purchased it, many stores will grant you a price adjustment.
Help children in need by donating extra school supplies
If you clean out your junk drawer and find yourself with more supplies than you need, or feel like picking up an extra item or two at Staples, donate them to KOAT 7, which is once again conducting its School Supply Drive for children in need. They are partnering with the New Mexico Public Education Department and Albuquerque Public Schools to donate supplies to children across the state. Donation bins are located at all Smiths and Lovelace locations.
For more information, call 1-800-678-KOAT.