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School supplies are expensive, and the prices seem to go up every year. Don’t invest your dollars into the back-to-school black hole. Instead, invest your time and energy into these money-saving tips.

How to Save on Back to School Supplies

1. Do a Closet and Supply Sweep

Believe it or not, you might already have plenty of school supplies lying around your house. Closets, desk drawers, and basement bins might hold hidden treasures that can save you money. Start by rounding up all of the office and school supplies you already own. Put them in a central location, like a plastic bin or on the dining room table, so you can make a list of what you have. Keep this list in your purse, or in the car, so you don’t forget it when you shop for school supplies. What do your children need for the school year?
  • Pens, pencils, markers, and highlighting pens
  • Erasers
  • Rulers
  • Notebooks and loose-leaf paper
  • Scratch paper
  • Binders
  • Calculators
  • Crayons
  • Art supplies
  • Post-it notes
In addition, go through your kids’ closets and start sorting. Clothing that the kids have outgrown, and worn clothing, should be donated or tossed. Once you complete this “supply sweep,” you’ll have a clearer picture of what youactually need to buy. Ideally, the sweep will prevent you from buying something you already have on-hand.

2. Shop at Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

Garage sales can be a treasure trove of deals for back to school supplies. Backpacks, gently used shoes, clothing, and even school supplies can be picked up for a song. Start hitting up garage sales for everything you need. It takes time, but you can score some incredible bargains this way. You can also ask friends and family members to keep an eye out for you, while they shop at garage sales. You can also find awesome bargains at thrift stores. Clothing is dirt cheap, and many stores run sales specifically for parents shopping for back to school items. Start early, though. The selection will be picked over by the first day of school.

3. Set Limits

As your kids grow older, they will insist on having the “latest and greatest.” They may request Justin Bieber binders and backpacks, and name-brand clothing from the mall. Although your kids crave these items, these “character-focused” products will quickly destroy your back to school budget. In addition, these items often aren’t made to last; many trendy clothing items are very cheaply made. So, set limits with your kids, and speak with them about money-based values. Let your children know that companies should be paying them for advertising their products by wearing name-brand clothing. Show them the difference between a cheaply made trendy item of clothing, and a well-made item without a logo, and explain the difference in quality. If you start teaching your kids about money management at a young age, they will grow up to understand and espouse these values. Let kids have two “specialty” items, like a Justin Bieber lunchbox and binder. Once they’ve chosen their two items, the rest of their supplies must be purchased at bargain prices. Tip: Don’t forget to scour sites like eBay and Craigslist for high-end and specialty items.

4. Save on College Supplies

If you have a child heading to college, then you will experience some serious sticker shock. From picking up supplies for their dorm room, to investing in college textbooks, sending a kid to college isn’t for the faint of heart. There are many ways to save money on back to school shopping for your college student. First, learn how to save money on college textbooks. Buy used textbooks on sites like Amazon, eBay, and Half.com. You can also compare prices on new books on CheapestTextbooks.com, or buy books on bargain sites like Textbookx.com. Additionally, you can save 50% or more on textbooks if you buy a digital copy and download it to your Kindle, or other e-reader. View textbooks available for digital download at CourseSmart.com or Cafescribe.com. And at the end of the semester, find websites where you can sell used textbooks for cash. Shop for dorm room essentials like rugs, sheets, and light cooking equipment at garage sales and thrift stores. You can save a lot of money by buying used items. You can also ask friends and family members if they have any items they do not use; your social and family networks will be glad to help! You can get gently used items for free, while givers declutter their homes. Everyone wins!

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