Back To School - Super Savers Guide

Back To SchoolAug 14, 2014: Back to school season is here. Parents and students alike are busy planning, budgeting and shopping to meet the semester head on. With rising tuition and increasing costs of school as well as college education, getting our kids back to school can be a major drain on our pockets if we don't plan it well. It gets better if we can get our kids to cooperate with us :). Well, easier said than done!
From past we've observed that this task is simpler if it's broken down into smaller chunks like:
  • plan a budget
  • create a list of needed items
  • set time lines to complete shopping
  • find the most frugal way of procuring each item and
  • execute the plan to the best of our abilities.

Plan A Budget

Plan A BudgetBefore we set out on an expedition of back to school shopping (that is what it truly is), it is extremely important to spend some time alone and chalk out a reasonable budget for the purchases. Else we'd be drowned in a sea of our kids' ever changing desires and aggressive merchants trying to maximize their sales. This also holds good for college or graduate students planning their back to school purchases. Identifying our true needs and weeding out wants oft help us to create a stress free budget. And sticking to a budget usually prevents impulsive buys.

Create A List Of Items With Timelines

We've observed that we save more money if we create our list of necessary items early on. That gives us extra time to look for the best available deal without feeling rushed. In this respect it's also important to set time lines by which we need to complete our purchases. Else we might keep looking for longer than required. That is when the law of diminishing returns kicks in. And nobody wants that to happen. We all have better things to do :).

Here is a probable back to school shopping list.

Create a list with time lines» Stationery - Paper, Notebooks, Pens, Pencils, Erasers, Crayons, Drawing Gear, etc
» Books - Text books, Additional Reading Material
» Computer - Desktop / Laptop
» Internet - DSL, Broadband, Dial-Up Connection, Roaming Wireless Card
» Electronics - MP3 music player, cell phones, printer, head phones, flash drives, CDs, DVDs, etc
» Clothes - Uniform, College gear, Interview gear, Sports gear
» Bags - Backpack, Laptop bag
» Tuition - Also covers transportation costs, medical insurance, gym fees for college students
» Food - Food vouchers for college students, lunch or snacks for school kids
» Furniture - Computer Desk, Futon, Bed, etc
» Coaching - Extra tuition classes or personal training

Find The Most Frugal Way of Getting The Item

Frugal ShoppingHaving identified our wants correctly, the crux of saving money in a Back to School shopping expedition lies in availing the most frugal deals.
  • Look for FREE Stuff: Nothing can beat "FREE." If we can manage to get something we need for free, we have hit the bulls eye. So it helps to ask friends, relatives, neighbors, colleagues for stuff we need. We might be surprised at the responses. It gets even better when we exchange stuff with other parents.
    While going back to college, it pays to ask seniors if they are throwing away stuff or have spare ones. And when we manage to get something free of cost, it's nice to express our heartfelt thanks to the giver. Another cool way to express gratitude is to give away stuff (in good shape) that we're not using. That keeps us in the good books of the universe :).
  • Check a Dollar Store: Most stationery and craft related stuff, accessories for electronics gadgets and miscellaneous items can be picked up at rock bottom prices at local dollar stores. Oft the same things cost way more at super markets or warehouse chains. So this store should be our first stop on a back to school shopping trip.
  • Purchase Second Hand: For big ticket items like furniture, clothes, bags and even some electronics gadget we should try to get them second hand whenever possible. Some good places to look are local garage and yard sales, newspapers or online sites like, and more.
  • Buy OnlineBuy Online: We almost always buy computers or text books online. Often the online deals beat the ones going on at brick and mortar stores. We usually find great coupons for both used and new text books at

    Wherever possible, we try to club in as many purchases as possible from a single seller to optimize the shipping costs. Most big ticket items like laptops or computers come with FREE shipping during a back to school shopping season. The essence is to cut down our shipping and handling expenses.
  • Last Minute Deals & Special Events: Often, some fantastic back to school deals (both online and physical stores) are released pretty late in the game. So if we can afford to wait patiently, it might pay off to look around and check the available deals regularly. Manufacturers usually offer huge rebates on product lines that they no longer want to continue in last minute deals. Also, we keep an eye for tax free days for shopping at various stores.

Execute The Plan Well

Pass Savings to KidsThough it might appear that shopping alone is the best solution for a successful back to school campaign, time and again we've noticed that it does not work out well with the kids. It's perhaps better to enlist their cooperation.

A nice way, is to work with a win-win maxim. We can make our kids aware of the budget, their available options and allow them to pocket the savings whenever they stay below the budget. But if we know their choice, then it is definitely faster and perhaps easier to shop for it alone. On a second thought, we feel that it's best to take them along with us and teach them the etiquettes of disciplined shopping on a budget and saving money. That experience will help form a strong character and instill good money habits in them at a young age.

That's about it with frugal tips for back to school shopping. We are looking forward towards your tips and experiences with back to school shopping :).

Image Source(s): iStockPhoto