Sunday, July 29, 2012

What I've Learned: Back to School Shopping

Photo:Free Digital Photos

I turned 36 in June and for 14 years of my Mommyhood life, I've gone back-to-school shopping in one fell swoop. Backpacks, shoes, new clothes, and various school supplies were bought all in one, often exhausting, day.

But when resources (read: money) is limited, one tends to revamp how she does things. We have never been "rich" by any stretch of the imagination, but I was always able to pull a couple of hundred dollars together to get school supplies and clothes (admittedly, credit cards "helped" in some areas. Note: do NOT do this unless you can immediately pay off your balance, in full. And really, if you can do that, just pay cash. It's so much easier.)

With The Man Beast landing a new job and me resigning from mine, resources have been very limited. As such, I've had to be resourceful and keep an eye out for sales and do my back to school shopping in stages. You know - how normal people shop.  You do shop this way, don't you? You don't? I'll give you a few good reasons why you should break your shopping down into smaller trips:

  1. You can grab some good sales. Here in Georgia, we're winding down the summer, so most local stores have started putting back to school supplies on sale. Actually, Wal-Mart has had their bins out front, not to mention two isles, full of school supplies for a month or so. Office supply stores, such as Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max are having mad deals just to get you into their store. If you space your shopping trips out over weeks (instead of hours), many of the door busters are on school supply lists. Getting three-pronged folders for .20 or even .10 is good, but getting them for .01 is even better.
  2. Tax Free Weekends. Many states participate in tax-free weekends where customers don't pay tax on any clothes, shoes, or back to school supplies. This website lists the weekends, if available in your state. I love shopping at JC Penny because their clothes last, so I will be heading into JC Penny August 10-11 (my tax free weekend) to snag some deals.
  3. Don't buy everything  you need. School starts on August 6th in my community. My tax-free weekend isn't until the following weekend. Therefore, I'm going to buy some clothes before school starts and save the rest of my list for after. As far as general school supplies are concerned, if you haven't gotten them during the door busters (see point #1), you might be able to get some good deals after school starts. Get just the basic and build on when and where you can.
  4. Don't buy new. I know this might be a gross concept to some people, but tons of great deals on children's clothing can be found in thrift shops. Many communities have privately run consignment shops. My community recently had a Goodwill store open. The proceeds from sales at Goodwill stores go to help those with disabilities find jobs (which, as a future SPED teacher, is a mission very close to my heart). Salvation Army isn't just a church. Their stores also give back to the community as well by providing emergency help to those in need. (Help, of which if you'll remember, my family and I were personal recipients)
  5. Reuse what you can. Who says your kid needs a brand new backpack if their old one is holding up? Have you replaced a three-ring binder in the middle of the school year that is still in good shape? Don't replace something that doesn't need replacing. Shoes are almost a definite - kids grow out of those - but if your kids got clothes for Christmas, the chances are pretty good that some of them still fit. Go through your child's closet/dresser and assess what they really have. Most wardrobes don't need a full overhaul; a few select items that work with existing pieces works just find.
Do you have any other tips? Share in the comments!


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