Back to school can come as a relief to some parents who are exhausted from an eventful summer. But on the other hand, back to school means an extra cost for stocking up on supplies and clothes for the next year. This expense may not come at the best time since it seems like you’re just done paying for summer camps, high utility bills  with the air conditioning running, and any summer adventures and trips you got to take. But before you get stressed out or end up spending more money than you need to, here are some tips for saving money on back to school costs this year.
Photo Credit: Rupert Ganzer 
Save On Back To School Supplies For Kids
- Wait until you get the list from your child’s school. If your child’s school or teacher sends out a back to school list for items you need to buy, you may want to wait for that to come out before shopping this year. First, they may be asking for specific items instead of something more broad. Second, you don’t want to overbuy on quantities if you don’t need it or buy items that aren’t needed this year. However, if you are certain about some items on the list and see a great deal ahead of time, buy it anyway. Just keep the receipt in case it’s not the correct item, and you want to take it back.
- Take an inventory of what you already have. Before you head out to stock up on supplies, take inventory of what you already have at your home. You may have leftover items from last year or items from summer projects or camp. See what you can get away with using from last year.
- Get your child in on the savings. If they’re old enough to pick out their own items and understand money, create a budget and have them stick to it. This is a great way to teach them about money, saving, and budgeting. It also gives them the option to splurge on a new backpack or a sweater if they want to balance that budget out in other areas. You can also get them in on the savings by encouraging them to use what they already have or jazzing up cheaper items. For example, let them decorate their binders, lunch boxes, backpacks, pencil cases, and spirals instead of paying for one already decorated. Use art supplies and crafts you already have on hand. You can also purchase items on sale.
- Swap with other moms and dads. Whether it’s school supplies, clothing, or sporting equipment, organize a swap party with family members, friends, other parents at the school, or neighbors. Kids are going to outgrow things quickly; don’t pay for it if you don’t need to.
- Shop the sales. Many stores advertise for back to school sales so take advantage. Target, Walmart, Office Depot, Staples, Office Max, Best Buy, and even grocery stores will offer a deal. See which supplies are the best deal at each store, plan an efficient route, and score the best deal on everything you need.
- Clip coupons. Just like you use coupons when you’re trying to save on your groceries, do the same for school supplies. You can find coupons  in the Sunday paper, on the store’s website, and online. Also try “Liking” the store and any companies on Facebook to get coupons as well.
- Sign up for store e-mail alerts. Visit all of the store’s websites to sign up for e-mail alerts. Simply by joining the list, you may earn a percentage off or a coupon. Also, you’ll learn about any promotions or deals they’re having. A good tip is to create a separate e-mail for coupons and signing up for stores so your work or personal e-mail isn’t getting flooded with additional mail.
- Borrow books from the library. Before you purchase all of the books on your child’s list, check out your local library. You can borrow the books for free instead of spending the money on it.
- Buy used books. For any required books, opt for a used book instead. You can find used books online at Amazon , on Ebay , or if you prefer in store, you can search for used book stores in your area. Encourage your child to keep it in good condition as well. If he or she doesn’t need it or doesn’t want to keep it, you can sell them at the end of the year.
- If you can hold off on certain supplies, go for it. Some supplies aren’t needed right off the bat. If you don’t need them right away and you can’t find a good deal on it, consider waiting until you need it. This way you have more time to try to find a better price.
- Create a Upromise account. Whether you’re shopping online or in-store, sign up for Upromise . Upromise is not only a great way to pay off college student loans , but you can also start saving for your young child’s college education as well. Simply register your credit, debit, and loyalty cards and use their links to shop, and a percentage of your purchase can be linked to a college savings account (or an existing student loan). Also, you can get coupons and discounts as a Upromise member.
- Hold onto your receipts. It’s always a good idea to hang onto your receipts, but it’s especially true with school supplies. If you buy something and see it go on sale later on, you may be able to get the sale price. If something breaks quickly or you bought the wrong item, you can bring it back. Not to mention that kids may see their friends with a certain backpack or lunch box and quickly change their mind on the type they’d like to use this year.
What other ways can parents save on their kids’ back to school needs? What are the best stores for great back to school deals? What are your tips on starting the year off being organized and efficient?