It’s definitely that time of year. Millions of kids across America will soon be starting elementary, middle and high school, not counting another several million who will be starting or returning to college. The way things work these days you could be out more than a hundred dollars just buying school supplies. We know because we just spent more than this getting our daughter ready to return to middle school. Plus, there’s the several hundred dollars more you’ll be spending for clothes, backpacks, locker shelves and on and on. So, what could you do to keep that spending under control? Here are five tips that should help you save money.
- Spend smartly
- Show your teen how to make his or her money go further by using discounts
- Challenge your child to save even more by going onto Facebook or Twitter to find promotional codes and coupons
- Put off any technical upgrades until after the holidays
- Go to websites such as PromotionalCodes.com, CashCard.com and DealNews.com to look for discounted electronic gift cards
Follow the three golden rules
There are also three golden rules followed by almost all savvy shoppers. The first is to sit down and catalog your needs. Make a list of what you will need to buy and then make sure you stick to it. Research has shown that 57% of school supply shoppers regularly spend more than they had planned.
Second, forget brand loyalty. If your child is demanding a certain clothing brand or store and you give into it, you’re likely to miss out on markdowns or sales that you could get from competing merchants.
And third, do your homework. Spend at least an hour online comparison-shopping before you begin visiting stores. This alone could save you as much as $100.
The beauty of discounted gift cards
Did you know that you can save as much as 35% by buying discounted gift cards? There are websites such as CardCash.com and GiftcardRescue.com were you could find some really good savings. As an example of this, PlasticJungle’s affiliate CashCard.com was offering (at the time of this writing) Abercrombie cards at 3% off, Aeropostale at 8% off, American Apparel at 20% off and American Eagle also at 20% off. While saving 3% at Abercrombie may not seem like much of a deal, these kinds of savings do add up.
You could make some extra shopping money by selling unwanted gift cards at sites like CashCard.com. For example, if you had an Ann Taylor gift card in the amount of $100 that you didn’t need, you could sell it on Cash Card.com for $65. And you could get nearly $75 for a $100 Bath and Body Works gift card.
Buy last year’s model or a refurbished unit
If your child absolutely has to have a new laptop this year, you can save money by buying last year’s model or by choosing a refurbished unit. Refurbished laptops are often ones that were returned for some reason so they can’t be sold as new even though they’re in perfect condition. Other types of refurbished units are ones that have been completely overhauled so to be in near-new condition. I’m writing this article on a refurbished Samsung 27-inch monitor I bought nearly one year ago for about half of what it would have cost new. I’ve also seen refurbished MacBook laptops in excellent condition, again for about half of what you would pay for a new one.
Good places to find refurbished laptops, monitors and so forth are PriceGrabber.com and Amazon.com. Apple itself sells refurbished units though it tends to charge more than comparable laptops available on Amazon.com or PriceGrabber.com. Dell has an online outlet store where it sells its Inspiron laptops at discounted prices and Walmart has a department with refurbished HP laptops where it’s currently offering a 15.6-inch Pavilion laptop for $318 – which should fit almost anyone’s budget.
Get email alerts
You can also sign up yourself or your teenager to get email sale alerts from his or her favorite retailers. The website SaleLocator.com can be used to track down back-to-school promotions by store in your area or even by specific item.
How to save on books
If your child is in a class where the required reading includes classics such as Mark Twain, Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, you can save a bunch by getting them free through Amazon.com or the Gutenberg Project (http://www.gutenberg.org/). Gutenberg currently has 42,000 free books that can be downloaded as ePub books, Kindle books or read online. It also has another 100,000 free books available through its partners, affiliates and resources.
Two words no teen or preteen wants to hear
Teenagers never want to hear the words “clothes” and “budget” strung together. However, it’s important you sit down with your child and discuss his or her needs and then develop a clothes budget. This may require some negotiations with give and take on both sides. However, if you can arrive at a budget number on which the both of you agree, you will eliminate many of those arguments that begin with the words, “But I really need to have this (fill in the blank).”
More back-to-school shopping tips
Watch this video for some good tips about organizing and buying back-to-school supplies form an actual freshman in high school.