This post was first published July 5, 2011. Check the comments for some more tips from fellow Pocket Your Dollars readers!
As surely as Black Friday follows Thanksgiving, back-to-school sales follow the Fourth of July. Yes, friends, we are officially in back-to-school season. This coming weekend every major store will most likely include school supplies in their weekly sales flyers.
With a head start and a little planning you can spend significantly less this year than you have in times past. These five steps will help you do just that.
Make a List
Make a list of the school supplies your kids will need for the upcoming school year. If you don’t have lists on hand, then call the school or school district and request one for the grade they’ll be entering.
Of course doing this implies that you won’t deny the reality that back-to-school shopping is at hand. I know you’re enjoying summer, but really, believe me that it is better for your pocketbook to buy early than to blindly sail through July and wait until late August.
Are you wondering why I’m even mentioning this now? “Can’t we wait until August to think about back-to-school?” you may wonder. You can wait, but the prices for school supplies will be lowest in July and ratchet up as Labor Day nears. Getting your act together now will pay off.
Each week, Pocket Your Dollars will provide a price comparison chart that lists prices for dozens of school supplies at 10 national retailers so that you can easily see who has the best price for each item. We’ll also keep track of the season’s best price for each item so you know if this week’s sale is truly a sale.
Shop Clothing Clearance
July is one of two months annually (January is the other) when retailers turn over their merchandise en masse, creating huge clearance sales for consumers. I’d encourage you to make a list of all the clothes, shoes, boots and accessories your kids will need in the next 6-12 months, along with their sizes. Then, as Pocket Your Dollars highlights great deals and you spot bargains in-store, you can quickly decide if an item is something you need. (Remember, to me, a deal isn’t a great deal unless it is 75% off or better.)
Commit a Budget
I hope you’ve been setting some money aside each month or each paycheck to have on hand for back-to-school shopping. If you haven’t, then figure out how much cash (yes cash…c-a-s-h) you can set aside each paycheck between now and Labor Day so you avoid debt this year.
Once you figure out how much or how little you have to work with, commit to it. You won’t spend less this year unless you make a conscious decision to do something differently.
Your turn: What are your biggest back-to-school budget busters?