Back-to-School Savings

It's that special time of year – the one where stores are packed, people are bustling and you need to make a list and check it twice. We're not talking about Christmas – it's the back to school season that will soon have people piling into local retailers looking for bargains on everything from crayons to calculators, and from shirts to sneakers.

While the shopping trip will probably go by in a blur, you still have hope for saving money and getting great back-to-school bargains. These tips may help you keep your shopping trip on track and on budget:

  • Know what you can or can't buy during the tax holiday. Tax-free weekend is a boon to shoppers and retailers alike, but the shopping days have some special guidelines that you may want to be aware of. Certain items may not be eligible for purchase during the weekend, and there may be specific guidelines you need to follow to get the most for your purchases. Review the rules on the state's website so you'll be prepared to shop August 17 - 19.
  • Map it out. You may need a map to make it through all the stores your children want to visit during your back-to-school shopping expedition. However, the map we're talking about is actually an inventory of your shopping needs. For example, your daughter may need two pairs of jeans, five new shirts and a backpack after you've inventoried her clothing and shoes that still fit. Stick to that list for your purchases, instead of getting sucked in by sales or other tempting opportunities and use them as an excuse to buy more.
  • Reuse and recycle. Your son may have outgrown his Transformers lunchbox, but that doesn't mean you have to throw it out or give it away. A younger brother or sister might be thrilled to use the same item. The same goes for clothes and even last year's school supplies. See what you can use, what you can pass down and what you can share with friends and neighbors. They may be willing to swap with you as well, which will save you both some time, while letting your kids benefit from additional options.
  • Do your online research. While it's important to support local retailers, online stores are going to be offering aggressive bargains during the shopping season. You may be able to find sales and coupons to reduce your overall costs, or to actually make some online purchases, using free shipping deals to cut those costs as well.
  • Use your Freedom Check Card. If you're going to spend money, you might as well be paid for doing it. Swiping your Freedom Check Card at each retailer's register will help you put a little change back into your budget. If you have a rewards credit card, you may want to consider using it as well to maximize your earnings on your shopping trips.

As always, it's important to set a budget and stick to it. You may want to review your buys from the previous year and challenge yourself to stay under that dollar amount, or at least try not to exceed it. Winding down the summer with savings is a great way to prepare for a school year full of financially-friendly fun and learning.