Another guest post from Missy M. from the USA for the first Thrifty Thursday post of the month …… and she is back from her recent vacation and getting ready for the kids going back to school.
For families in the US, and some other parts of the world August means “back to school”. For those of us with limited incomes, this is a time of dread. It doesn’t have to be a break the bank moment though. Here are a few tips to help you get through this time of year.
1. Shop sales. Many places are offering back to school sales. Office Max/ Office Depot, Staples, Walgreens, Walmart, grocery stores, Target, even Menards! I’m sure the list goes on.
If you have the same problem as I do, the list the school provides for school supplies varies greatly compared to the list the teacher gives during open house. Here in Michigan, we don’t start until September, so the sales are over by that time. I try to think of what my kids will need. Pencils, crayons, markers, ruler, glue sticks, scissors, folders, paper , book bag, lunch bag, ice packs, soup thermos. I also try to think of supplies the teachers will need: dry erase markers, bleach wipes/ baby wipes, tissues, plastic bags, bar of chocolate (hey, teachers need love too!) I look through ads, either from the paper, or online, I check with local coupon or money saver groups on Facebook. I unfortunately cannot give you a link to yours, but if you type in your town and coupon or saver, many times you can find a group, or find a garage sale group on FB local to you and ask in there. I never would have known about the 59 cent 3 packs of dry erase markers at Menards had I not asked in my local group. I didn’t even know they carried school supplies, much less had some really fantastic savings!
Buy what you think you might need for the year! Buy while it’s cheap, and store it! This way, I only have to buy a few things I didn’t realize I would need when I get the list from the teacher after the prices have gone up to full price.
2. Garage sales/ yard sales or even thrift stores. Yes, it’s great to get brand new clothes, but, who can afford $15 for a new shirt x 10 or however many you buy for your kid. I buy my kids 2-3 new outfits from a place like Target or Kmart when they have good sales, or old Navy when they have a super clearance sale. After that, I find decent looking new to my kid clothes. My kids are young, so maybe if you have teens this strategy won’t work as well, but my kids are just happy to get new clothes, no matter where they come from. I’ve picked up some great clothes that look brand new for $1 or less, including name brands!
3. Avoid pre-packaged food if you can help it. I know it’s convenient to just toss a bag of chips or cookies into a lunch bag, but if you want to save money, buy a big bag, and put it in a container (if you want to save money in the long run) or baggies for the kid that isn’t good about bringing their dishes home yet. ). Make your own Lunchables if your kid loves those. Buy crackers, or pretzels, lunch meat, or better yet, leftover meat from dinner, and you have a cheaper, and at least a little better Lunchable. Be creative so your kids love it! Cut up tortillas into strips, coat with peanut butter (or sun butter if there is an allergy), roll them up. Give them a small cup with a lid of jelly to dip them in. My kids LOVE those.
You don’t have to only think about back to school during the summer months. Places like Old Navy have really good clearance sales about twice a year. Stock up when clothes are dirt cheap. Get bigger sizes than what your child is in currently. If your child likes a certain style—jeans, stretch pants, etc, get them for the next size or two. (Again, this may not work for teens, but it does for younger kids). Then you don’t have to spend as much during the back to school rush, or Christmas (as these double as Christmas or Easter gifts as well as birthday gifts).
Missy M. is a single mom of two, bargain hunter and self sufficiency advocate.