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Tips for saving money on school supplies

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Countdown and stock up

These days it seems that the advertisements for back to school shopping start almost as soon as school out in late spring. We're inundated with pressure to buy, buy, buy. It can be easy - and, yes, fun - to get caught up in the glee of back to school as the weeks countdown to a brand new year of academic possibility for our kids. But before you go shopping for school supplies and school clothes, take a step back. Are you buying what your kids need or buying into the hype?

Before you dash off to the mall, taking time to take stock and make careful lists can help you and your kids stay calm in the midst of the mania - and that may translate to a smoother school start over all. It can also help you save quite a bit of money and not waste resources. In addition, if you child is particularly nervous about starting back to school, diving into this frenzy may also make his or her anxiety that much greater. Staying calm in all aspects of back-to-school preparation may be a good thing for all of you.

School supplies

While many schools distribute generic school supply lists for a particular grade level, and teachers may distribute an even more detailed list for his or her class, it doesn't necessarily mean you need every last item on the first day of school. While you likely should have the basics, remember that the first couple days of class are often about getting aquainted and learning the class rules, especially at younger grade levels. It's not the end of the world if your child doesn't have her glue sticks, and there's no need to go out to find one at the last minute!

You can also ask the parent of a child who previously was in this teacher's class how much of the list was really used and how soon. You may be able to wait to purchase the packs of notecards for the big research project until the reasearch project is underway - in March.

School clothes

Many kids and parents love the newness and specialness of a back to school wardrobe, but does your child really need all that much? If your child is attending a school with a uniform requirement for the first time, you may indeed need to puchase several outfits worth of clothing. But if not - well, a sorting through of current clothing (and passing on things outgrown or outworn) can certainly help you determine what your child needs versus what they may want. Plus you will certainly save you money if you cross reference that detailed list against sales circulars and online retailers. This isn't to say that a little splurge on a first day of school outfit is a bad thing (if it fits into your family budget), but likely don't need to go overboard either.

School groceries

After a summer of relatively free days, you probably will also be adjusting some of what you and your family eats. Whether it's breakfasts, bag lunches, or afternoon snacks, consider what will be different about your grocery shopping and start looking for deals on the non-perishable items at local mega-marts and warehouse stores. Make sure perishable items are noted on your weekly grocery list and meal plan; it would be no fun for it to be the night before school and have no lunch fixings in the house!

Getting ready for the start of school from a material sense is not just one big shopping spree at the mall. If considered carefully, you can successfully and cost-effectively get ready for the start of school without being part of the frenzy.?

More back to school tips:

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