9 ways to stay on budget this school year
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Back to School (Again)1 of 10
By Elizabeth Jenkins
No matter how early you start back-to-school shopping, it never fails: By the end of September you realize you forgot something, that your kids have lost a thing or two (or three) or that the class requires items you never thought of. But don't panic. Crystal Paine, creator of the blog MoneySavingMom.com and mother of three young children shares her tips for saving time and money any time of year.
Reward Yourself2 of 10
Even if you only visit an office-supply store once or twice a year, Paine says it is well worth it to sign up for the store's rewards program. In most cases, you will "earn" dollars every time you spend. At some stores you get instant cash back. "Last year at Office Max, I essentially got ten reams of paper for free because they cost $49.99 and I got $49.99 cash back." Pay attention to expiration dates on your reward dollars, she advises, and try to use money you've earned on something you know you'll need, like ink for your printer.
Penny Wise3 of 10
"Go ahead and stock up on supplies—like rulers, pens, pencils, glue sticks and things you use personally—even if your child doesn't need them," says Paine. "When something is only a penny or even ten cents, versus the regular price of $1 or $2, it's smart to stock up." Recent deals at Staples have included a penny for 100 index cards or a 12-pack of erasers for a penny.
Name Your Price4 of 10
"Rather than running all around town, trying to score the best deals on notebooks and backpacks at different stores, take advantage of Walmart's price-matching program, suggests Paine. "You don't even need the competitors ad, but I always tell people to bring it just in case." Sign up to get an email from the store whenever new savings go into effect.
Click Away5 of 10
A lot of retailers offer various ways to save online. At Target, for example, there are icons for three separate savings methods in the upper-right-hand corner of their homepage: Coupons, Clearance, Weekly Ad. In the Coupons section, you can sort by category and then see which coupons apply to items on your list like mechanical pencils; in the Clearance section, you'll find huge markdowns on kids' clothing; and in the Weekly Ad, you'll see a copy of the ad for the Target store nearest you.
Free for All6 of 10
What's better than a sale? Getting something for free! Free printable notes and cards are available all over the Web like these designs from It's Written on the Wall. "Lunch notes can be a meaningful way to remind your child that you love them and are thinking of them," says Paine. If you take advantage of these printables, you won't find yourself spending money unnecessarily on cute stationery.
Deal With It7 of 10
Many times, shopping via a third-party site can also save you money. On Ebates.com, for example, you will receive a check for a certain percentage of all the purchases you make through the site. And at Amazon, you can earn 3 percent cash back on purchases of bikes and scooters like this Schwinn. "It can be as much as 8 or 10 or even 12 percent back," says Paine.
Built to Last8 of 10
A higher-quality lunch box or backpack can last for several school years, so it's worth it to spend more, especially if you can take advantage of a site-wide discount or free shipping offer. "Lands' End often offers 30 percent off and free shipping," says Paine.
Tech Support9 of 10
"We've purchased a bunch of laptops over the years and we've always found that it's better to go to slickdeals.net first," says Paine. "They really do a fantastic job of keeping tabs on the best electronic deals." Once you're on the brand's website, look for "Student Deals" or "Back-to-School Sales" to find the best prices.
All-for-Ones10 of 10
There are thousands of stores around the country where every item costs $1 (or less!), including Dollar Tree, Dollar Store, Dollar Discount and the 99¢ Only Stores. At the 99¢ Only Stores back-to-school musts include stylish binders with "OMG" and "BFF" printed on them, three-packs of pens featuring Disney characters, highlighters, composition books and more. Plus, all of these stores carry grocery items perfect for school lunches.