Back-to-School Shopping… Saving Money After the Dust Has Settled
It’s a fact: some of the best deals you will find come after the kids have gone back to school. Oh I know… back-to-school sales started about two months ago, and for most families school has been in session for about a month. To me – both as a parent, and as a thrifty adult – the best part of the back top school sales starts now… just in time for several upcoming occasions. Read on to discover how I save money each year by shopping the after-sales.
Spend or Save?
According to the National Retail Federation, parents spent an average of $600 to get one child ready for school in 2011. Many parents who are barely making ends meet know that there are some items to scrimp on, and others to save for. They’ve also learned that outfitting their children for their entire school year, prior to the first day of class, is counter-productive when school supplies and fall fashions go on sale shortly after the kids return to school. Aside from that, most frugal parents who are working to stick to a budget operate on a cash-only basis. I’m one of them… paying off and getting rid of my own credit cards were the first thing I did in trying to turn my financial situation around from red to green. As many families have discovered, shopping after the second week school is in session can help stretch your budget across the board – not just in back-to-school savings.
Get or Give?
Within 2-3 weeks of school starting, the clearance aisles at Target, Walmart and other discount stores are overflowing with overstock. While I may be found picking up supplemental school supplies, this is also when I stock up on office supplies for my business. Once that’s done, I move on to my “special occasion” list – part of my budget that can’t really fall under ‘entertainment’… and also a part of my budget that can fluctuate more than I’d like if I’m not careful. Some of the items you come across within the realms of the clearance overstock may be repurposed into holiday or birthday gifts, rewards/incentives for good grades, housewarming gifts, or even replacement items for something around your own home. This is also an excellent time to stock up for next year, if you can afford it. The high-ticket items like lunchboxes and backpacks can be found for up to 80% off in the late fall: simply go with neutral or gender-specific colors and stash them away until next year. (Note: new backpacks also make a welcome Christmas or birthday gift mid-year, replacing broken or lost items.)
Back to my thoughts on the holiday season… shopping for Christmas gifts in the post-back-to-school clearance aisles can make holiday giving much less stressful. This is the time when the stores start to move fall items out and replace them with Christmas stock (Yes – unfortunately we all know that Christmas decorations go on the shelves in August.) While we all realize that a 12 year-old who asked for a new iPhone isn’t going to be satisfied with last year’s Baby Care For Me doll, a four year old probably will. Children under 6 will barely realize it if their top request is filled with an assortment of previously released action figures, dolls, or play sets. Shopping the clearance sales year-round for holiday gifts can not only help save your budget, but help stretch it as well, allowing you to give more than you could had you paid full price.
Aside from shopping clearance sales on a regular basis, pay attention to the prime times of the year when clothes, shoes, toys and household items are reduced for quick sale. I mark my calendar to shop the department stores for name-brand winter coats and post-Christmas merchandise in February, because I know that in the retail industry inventory is impending, and the retailers want to clear out as much as possible before they have to count it all. Knowing when to shop in order to save money is half the battle – and honing your frugal shopping skills can make saving money that much sweeter.
Tell us: what time of the year do you find the best bargains? Do you shop for certain items year-round, or shop around your budget?