Like many parents, you may look forward to getting the kids out of the house and back to school but would rather skip the back-to-school shopping trip. Considering the hefty expense of outfitting kids for their school career, it’s not surprising.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Back-to-School Survey, families with school-aged children will spend an average of $634.78 on supplies, apparel, shoes and electronics this year.
Try the dollar store for back to school shopping, and you can save a substantial amount of money on supplies. Consider these tips for making the most out of 99 cent deals.
Do the math
Not sure if visiting the dollar store will add up to substantial savings? Consider the long list of necessary school supplies the school sends, and take out your calculator. If your child requires 20 items, such as erasers, pens, pencils, notebooks, binders and book covers, and you would normally pay an average of $3 for such items elsewhere, that’s a savings of $40. If you have more than one child, the money you save jumps substantially. And this doesn’t take into consideration the deals you can sometimes nab on electronics and apparel.
Look for specials and coupons
Sweeten the deal at the dollar store by keeping your eyes out for coupons and special deals. For instance, Family Dollar and Dollar General offer coupons in fliers and online. A coupon for $5 off $20 worth of merchandise could mean getting school supplies that would cost you $40 elsewhere for just $15.
As you shuffle through the supplies at the dollar store, look for high-quality items that will stand the test of time. Whenever possible, choose name-brand items that you know and trust. While a pencil is pretty much a pencil no matter the brand, some items like crayons and markers will work better and last longer if they are a high-quality brand.
Test the various items you are considering buying. For instance, try putting a book cover on a book, sample markers if possible, see how well the rings open and close on a binder and always zip the zippers.
Not everything you find at the dollar store is a wise purchase for your little one’s school career. If you can’t find name brand bigger ticket items like backpacks and electronics, you may be better off reserving part of your school budget to purchase those items elsewhere. You want a backpack that will easily zip and hold up to the rigors of the coming year, and an algebra calculator that has a viable battery.
Try apparel and shoes
Though it may seem like an uncommon place to find your child a new outfit, you might be surprised at the great deals on apparel and shoes you can find at the dollar store. If your student is young and growing and rough on clothing, a $3 outfit may be just what you need to stretch your budget.
Look for dollar deals everywhere
Supplement your dollar store visit with dollar deal specials at your local department, drug and craft stores. Many retailers advertise loss-leaders specials at this time of year featuring useful items like glue, paper and scissors, and fun additions like gel pens and decorative pencil pouches.
Armed with these tips for saving money on back-to-school supplies, you can use the money to enjoy the rest of the summer.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published journalist specializing in personal finance and small business. She has written 10 books and more than 2,500 articles for a wide variety of national and international publications, including Parade.com, where she has a weekly column. In addition to contributing to SuperMoney, her work has appeared in publications such as American Express OPEN Forum, The Hartford and Forbes.