I can’t believe that July is over! I keep telling people I “just” moved back to Texas , but it’s actually been over two months. I had big plans for this summer, and I’m sad to say that lots of them just didn’t get done. As we enter fall, I’m going to try to be better about making plans and sticking to them. I’m not in school anymore, but I remember that this time of the year always came with such promise: the beginning of school meant a chance to start over, make new friends, learn new things, and be (really this time!) so organized I would never have to stay up late doing homework.
Whether you’re in school yourself or gearing up to send the little ones off for another year in the classroom, this time of year also brings with it a load of expenses – but expenses should also be looked at as opportunities to be creative and save a little money. Below, my favorite back-to-school  savings tips.
Gearing up for back-to-school
- Take stock of what you need: Even if your child’s school supply list is long, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Not everything has to be new. Chances are the crayons you bought your child last year are broken/used/lost after 12 months. But it’s quite possible their pencil sharpener is still in perfectly good condition. Maybe you buy your child new school shoes every year, but a growth spurt meant you bought an extra pair in April – and can still get several months’ use out of them this year.
- Buy used: College students will recognize this tip as applying most to book-buying: it’s no secret that you can save 50% or more by buying used books online . But this tip can also apply to school uniforms, other school clothes, backpacks, lunchboxes and even some school supplies. Both Craigslist and thrift stores offer great deals on items that can be like-new. You might also be able to take advantage of church or community yard sales, or host your own swap meet .
- Shop the sales: Nearly every store is having some great end-of-summer specials. I just bought 2 pairs of shorts for $6 each at Old Navy (I saved over $30 – and a Groupon  meant only half of what I “spent” was my own money). If you don’t get the Sunday paper, buy one to check out ads for clothing stores, office supply stores and general merchandise stores like Target – you’d be surprised what you can save.
- Go tax-free: Lots of states have tax holidays  around this time of year. If you can, wait to buy big-ticket items like school uniforms and shoes. Just know that lines will be long – so get anything that’s not tax-free ahead of time if possible!
- Group buy: Group buying  sites are all the rage – but they’re not the only way to save money by joining forces with other people! If you’re friends with the parents in your child’s class, see if you can take advantage of volume discounts by buying multipacks of things like notebooks, pencils and binders. This might also be helpful if you have multiple children with similar needs.
- Pre-buy when it makes sense: I’ve talked about how pre-buying  can sometimes be a spending trap. But if you’re careful with your planning, it can ultimately save you a ton of money. If you know your child will need to replenish certain supplies partway through the school year, buy them now while they’re on sale and put them away until you need them. You can also take advantage of the tax holidays to pre-buy things like winter coats, and even some Christmas gifts (yes, we’re only 5 months away !).
- Get creative: See what you have, what you can repurpose from around your house, and what one child can pass to another. Kids are more fashionable than ever these days – a really hip 4th grader might be interested in using an old purse as a lunchbox, or an old totebag as a backpack. I bet you have unused pens/binders/scissors in your office (or, more likely, in a forgotten junk drawer somewhere in your kitchen!). Spend some digging around your house before you hit the stores – you might be surprised at what you’ll find!