Smart Ways to Save on Back to School

School supplies can be broken down to four categories: big items like sports equipment and backpacks; bulk supplies like pencils, notebooks and folders; clothing and uniforms; and lunch supplies. Here are some great ways to find deals in each category.

Here are a few things you should do before heading out to the stores.

Clean Out and Organize
Before you head out to the stores, clean out and organize your kids stuff. Go through last year’s school supplies to see what you can still use. Check clothing to see what still fits and what needs to be fixed.

Set a Budget
Create a budget before you shop. Go through your finances and determine what you can afford to spend on clothing and supplies. Have an idea of how much you you want to spend on each of the items on your list as well. If something is way out of your price point, look for a better deal somewhere else.

Shop Online
If you’re looking for great deals, go online first.
Make sure to search sites like Ebates and Ibotta to get cash back on your purchases. Look for coupon codes before you buy as well. Other sites you can use for coupons is RetailMeNot and CouponSherpa. You can also check out daily deal sites like Groupon.

Saving Big in the Four Categories

Large Items
For items like backpacks, sports gear, art supplies and calculators, look for gently used. Check Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, neighborhood boards and mom exchange boards to see if anyone has the items that you’re looking for. Since kids grow so fast that a lot of gently used items are still in great condition and you’ll get them for a fraction of the cost.

Bulk Supplies
For smaller supplies like pencils, notepads and crayons and more, check the sales flyers for your local stores, as well as Amazon, Walmart, Target and other big retailers.

Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club can help you save on many supplies. You’ll also find savings on items like printer ink, sandwich bags, paper napkins and tissues.

Clothing and Uniforms
Profit from the Old—If you have clothing that’s still in good condition, sell them and use the profits to buy new clothing. You can sell them at eBay, Craigslist, yard sale or consignment store.

Try trading in your clothes on online sites like ThredUp, Once Upon a Child and Plato’s Closet who will take your gently-used clothing in exchange for cash or store credits.

Buy Secondhand—Check thrift stores, consignment stores and yard sales. I have found great deals on items, especially when I only needed something for a few months.

Shop Late—Do most of your back-to-school shopping a month or two after school starts. This is when the stores place the latest fashions on their clearance racks.

Uniforms
If your school requires uniforms, secondhand stores have the best deals. Check thrift stores consignment stores, School Uniform Resale and eBay.

You can find good deals for uniforms at large retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, The Gap,Old Navy, The Children’s Place, and more.

Lunch and Snack Supplies
Costco, Aldi and other food stores have great deals on lunch and snack supplies. You can purchase sandwich bags in bulk, along with paper lunch sacks.

To save time, make lunches ahead of time. I’ll make enough uncrustables for a week or two on the weekends and freeze them so there’ll be less rush and stress in the mornings.

Buy snack items in bulk (rather than snack size items) and then repackage them in baggies. You can also slice apples (sprinkle with lemon juice to keep them from browning), chop veggies, and make snack cups of yogurt and applesauce in reusable containers. Create a snack shelf or drawer in the kitchen where your kids can grab items for themselves.

How do you save on school supplies?

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