August 2011

Study up on back-to-school Savings

Shopping for back-to-school items should be a time to get excited for an upcoming year of new adventures. Yet, many people worry that long lines and hefty price tags will sour the whole experience. The truth is, school shopping can be an enjoyable and efficient activity. Here are some pre-shopping tips:
  1. Buy quality: It doesn’t take long for notebooks to rip and rulers to break after the first few months of school. Instead of buying the cheapest supplies in anticipation of the inevitable, opt for sturdy, high-quality products that will last longer. Notebooks and binders with plastic covers, for example, will hold up better than cardboard varieties. As for gear like backpacks and lunch bags, many companies such as L.L. Bean offer excellent warranties for handling things like broken zippers and torn cloth. If an item wears out or breaks sooner than expected, you’ll be happy to have an inexpensive solution or maybe even a free replacement.
  1. Organize a school swap: Many kids are required to buy a certain type of item or supply one year – a graphing calculator or a specific textbook, for example – but may not need it the next. Get together with neighbors and friends to see if you can make a fair trade. You might have an excess of highlighters and loose-leaf paper that can be exchanged for a protractor or compass. Even clothes can be swapped, so kids will be happy to have a new outfit just as much as you’ll be happy to save money.
  1. Skip the tax: Check the Federation of Tax Administrators’ list at www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales_holiday.html to see if your state offers a sales-tax holiday. Clothing, computers and more are often available tax-free during a specific week or weekend. Have a list ready before you go shopping to ensure that you don’t forget anything or overspend. Visit your state’s official government website or www.taxadmin.org for more info.
  1. Coupons, coupons, coupons: If you take just 15 minutes and browse the newspaper inserts, you’ll find hundreds of deals for items that are probably on your back-to-school list. Figure out which promotions are worth your while, and which will have you spending more in the long run. Stock up on buy-one-get-one-free products, so you won’t spend time and gas later in the school year. Don’t forget to check out online coupons, too. You can go to manufacturer’s websites or browse sources like www.couponmom.com and www.couponcabin.com for a wide range of product and service deals.
Back-to-school shopping can be a fun experience for both kids and adults. Be sure to have a game plan to avoid unnecessary stress and money troubles. You should also ask your friends and family members if they have any tips; chances are, they’ve found their own tricks to master school shopping trips.