Now is the time to start planning to save big for back-to-school. Gift cards, pre-paid cards and coupons are a great way to save some cash when it’s time to go back to school.
Start with Gift Cards & Other Pre-Paid Cards
One way to budget for back-to-school is to buy gift cards and pre-paid debit cards in advance. Be sure to check for expiration dates.
Pick them up every time you get paid, if you can, and establish a fund for each child so that you have a pool of money to draw from without touching your bank account unless you want to or you have to.
At sales time, it means that you don’t have to fiddle with a check book, and, since you’re paying with cash, you won’t run up any big credit card balances.
Be as flexible with cards as you can, dividing the money up between pre-paid debit cards you can use anywhere and gift cards for specific stores like Target and Walmart.
Save Up Coupons
Start clipping coupons early, too. Many manufacturers plan special promotions well in advance to back-to-school sales, and their coupons have long shelf lives. It takes work to make money work harder, and throwing coupons at sales prices means everybody has more underwear and socks.
An easy way to organize your materials is to keep envelopes for each store you plan to shop at, and store coupons and cards for each. When you hit the sales, you have to keep track of only those envelopes for the stores you plan to visit each day.
Hit Sales for School Supplies
If you can, stock up on school supplies whenever you find them on sale. That way you’re ahead of the game. Watch closely for sales on supplies for special projects like poster board, glitter pens and colored markers.
You’ll usually find good discounts on folders, pens and pencils, binders, spiral notebooks and notebook paper at office supply stores if you’re willing to buy by the box.
Scout Stores That Offer Bulk Buying
You’ll do very well shopping stores that offer bulk buying and even better if they also offer cash discounts. Ask about using pre-paid cards as well.
When you find the right kind of deal, be sure to tell your friends and the PTA. The more people who get in on this kind of order, the lower the total cost can be, especially if you can pay with cash. If you own a business, you may qualify for a wholesaler’s license, which opens up even more possibilities for discounts.
Plan to Shop All the Sales
When you can, shop all the sales. Carpool with neighbors and enlist older children to drive, but make sure you cover all the bases. You can also work with schools and churches to organize shopping trips and group buys for better prices.
Take Advantage of Tax Holidays
Of course, if your state, county or city sponsors a tax holiday, you’ll want to do the bulk of your shopping tax free. Your state’s Department of Revenue website has more information and tip sheets.
Don’t Forget to Shop Online
If you’re in the market for large quantities of school supplies and clothing like t-shirts and shorts, shop online, where it’s often easier to find bulk pricing. Combine that with free shipping and delivery to your door, and it just might be possible that you can finish shopping for back-to-school without leaving home.
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