by Melissa Jaramillo
School bells will be ringing soon, beckoning students back to class. They'll be catching up with old friends and making new ones. Sending your "baby" off for the first time can leave you joyful, a little bittersweet and with a lump in your throat.
We know why you have that lump and it isn't from being sad! The cost to go back to school can be painful to swallow! Adding up the list of supplies, clothes or uniforms, and requested fees hurts! Home-schooling mamas, we're not leaving you out! Those curriculum and materials can gouge your bank account.
We've talked it up with our Pregnancy.org moms and various organizations to share their best tips. The result is one awesome money-saving, budget-stretching list to extend your family dollars.
1. Take advantage of tax free events. Many states offer a "tax holiday." You'll get a break from state sales tax on school supplies from bookbags to clothing. The deals vary and come with lots of fine print so check your state's listing. To maximize your savings:
2. Reduce, reuse, recycle: Take advantage of trend-savvy kids with "environmentally-friendly" gear. Add pizzazz to last year's plain notebook with a stickers or photos. Watch yard sales, thrift stores and consignment shops for low cost, high quality school supplies and clothing.
3. Patience saves you a bunch! One Pregnancy.org mom says she waits a month or two before shopping for clothes. Weather allows her boy to wear shorts the first few weeks and by then she's able to take advantage of the pre-holiday clearance sales.
I usually buy them a new "back to school" outfit but I don't buy whole new wardrobes to start off the year. I hit up the sales and one of our really good second-hand stores (where I often find stuff brand new/almost-brand new). ~Marla, Pregnancy.org member
4. Use wise shopper tactics. Don't fall into buying just because it's "the lowest price." If your child doesn't need it, you've wasted that money good sale or not. More tips:
5. The Dollar Store can save you money. Check other outlets and consider team shopping with another family. Each of you buy the maximum rock-bottom-priced supplies and then share.
As a single mom...The Dollar Store! I got everything Peter needed last year at one and spent less than $15. ~mujul79, Pregnancy.org member
6. Which backpack is most economical? Some moms prefer a cute, cheap one and change with their child's interests for the first few years. Others would rather buy a nice one that will last several seasons or passed down to a sibling.
L.L. Bean's Backpacks are the best...worth the extra investment. I bought one during my sophomore year in college after destroying 5 backpacks in a year and half. I STILL have it and other than a little fading, there's hardly a mark on it! (Should mention, I was a sophomore in 1990!) Definitely a good return on investment!" ~celticbandgeek, Pregnancy.org member