Whether you're preparing to send your child to elementary school, your teen to high school, your young adult to college, or you're taking courses to further your own education, going back to school is expensive!
Follow these tips to make your dollars stretch…
- Use What You Already Have
This step may be the most obvious, but it's also most important! Obtain your school's required supply list before you ever leave the house, then go through last year's backpack and household drawers to figure out which items you already have. It may take some time and effort, but you'll definitely save money by recycling what you already have.
If you live in Hamilton County, you can find each school's supply list here.
- Buy Used
For bigger items like dorm room necessities or college textbooks, you can save some serious money by shopping used. College students moving away from home can find everything from pots and pans to furniture at any thrift store, yard sale, or on Craigslist. And who knows? You may even find the basic supplies you need for younger kids as well!
For textbooks, you can visit Connexions, Open Educational Resources, and Flatworld Knowledge for free textbooks available for download. These sites currently have only a limited number of books available, but they are quickly increasing in popularity and size. You can also swap textbooks with other students at SwapMarket or you can rent books at Textbook Revolt. If none of these sites work for you, be sure to check out Half.com for a larger selection of discounted books.
- Delay Clothing Purchases
Though it's tempting to buy a whole new fall wardrobe for your fashion-conscious teen, don't forget that school starts in the summer. We'll have many, many more weeks of hot weather before bundling our kids in warmer clothes. Right now, fall clothes are at a premium. The longer you wait, the more likely these prices will drop.
Determine whether last year's clothes still fit by having your child try on each article of clothing. This is especially important for students who have to follow uniform guidelines. If new uniforms are needed, try shopping consignment stores and check for uniform swap events at your school. If you know any families with bigger kids at your school, you may even consider asking if they'll let you buy some of the uniforms their kids have outgrown.
- Use the Internet to Find Deals and Discounts
Before shopping, use the internet to compare the circulars of each store in the area. Many stores offer price matches, so instead of traveling to each store to get the best deal, you can present an advertisement to the cashier to get the discounted price available at a different store.
You can also make use of coupon and rebate sites. If you've never used sites like BeFrugal.com and Ebates, it can be intimidating to get started, but both can save you lots of money. Click here to read Money Talks News' explanation of the advantages of using rebates sites like Ebates.
- Take Advantage of Tax Free Holidays
Throughout the country, many states elect to hold tax free holidays during the back to school season, allowing consumers to purchase goods over a two to three day period without paying any sales tax. Georgia and Tennessee are both lucky to enjoy the advantages of tax free holidays this year. In Tennessee, the tax free weekend occurs August 3rd - August 5th, 2012. In Georgia, consumers will enjoy the tax free holiday from August 10th - August 11th, 2012.
To find out if your state will hold a tax free holiday, or to obtain more information, check out this list from the Federation of Tax Administrators.
- Take Notes!
As you prepare to send your kids back to school, make a list of the preparations that have worked and those that have only wasted time. Whether you keep this list on your computer, smartphone, or on paper, make sure you'll be able to access it at this time next year. Once "Back to School" season rolls around again, you'll have a list of personal reminders to serve as "do's and dont's" as you prepare your kids for another year at school!
What are your best "Back to School Savings" tips? Let us know by leaving a comment below!