Back-to-school time is here! Many parents consider it the best time of the year. However, it’s also one of the most expensive. School supplies, school clothes and shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, and lunch supplies . . . even if you’ve only got one child, it all adds up. A few glue sticks, pocket folders, and uniform polo shirts on their own won’t break the bank. What is overwhelming, though, is the quantity of items parents must purchase to get their kids school-ready. Here are some tips to minimize the financial damage when you go shopping for your back-to-school list.

No One Will Know It’s Not New

Do you have multiple kids or friends whose kids are older than yours? Save tons of money by stocking your kids’ closets with high-quality hand-me-downs. If you cut the tag off of a pair of new blue jeans and compare to a pair of gently used blue jeans, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. Neither will your kids. Or their friends. After you’ve tapped out your hand-me-down options, check out local kids’ resale shops and sites like eBay. If you save a bundle on essentials, you’ll be able to splurge on a few pieces on your child’s wardrobe wish list.

Check for Coupons and Prices Online

Especially if your child is a teen or tween, she’ll probably have a list of must-have clothing items, shoes, or accessories to ensure she feels cool at school. This may necessitate a trip to the mall. Take your phone and turn on your Wi-Fi. Before you check out at any retail stores, do a quick online search for the name of the store and “printable coupon.” If you find one, zoom in on the bar code and the sales clerk can scan it just like the paper version. For larger priced merchandise, check prices at online retailers as well to ensure you are getting the best price. Some stores will match these prices, too.

Organize a Supply Swap

Especially if you have multiple kids, odds are good that you already have some of the items on your child’s school supply list. If you bought scissors last year, they’ll probably work just fine this year. Also, consider getting a group of friends or relatives together to trade extra items you and they may have on hand. Or, why not get a group together and purchase supplies in bulk? If you search online for bulk school supplies, you’ll find deals like a 30-pack of glue sticks for less than $8. That comes out to about 25 cents each. Get a group together, buy necessities in bulk, then split the cost and the supplies.

Go Generic

You can also save money by purchasing store brands. The handy-wipes, hand sanitizers, and tissues listed on your school supply list need not be name brand. Neither does the peanut butter, jelly, fruit snacks and sandwich bags you pack in your child’s lunch. The only difference between many generics and their name-brand counterparts is the label. And when you absolutely do need to buy the brand names, scour your local Sunday newspaper for coupons. You may scoff at the thought of taking the time to clip a coupon to save 25 cents. But if you clip 16 25-cent coupons (which is highly doable), you will shave $4 off your bill. If you’re particularly industrious, ask friends and neighbors for their unwanted coupon inserts.

Bonus Savings (For Some)

This year, 16 states have announced sales tax-free weekends for school supplies, back-to-school clothes and, in some cases, even computers. Most tax-free weekends are in August, some earlier than others. But depending on where you live, you may be able to take advantage of those extra savings. Check the listing of participating states and dates to see if you can take advantage of it this year.

The countdown is on. Back-to-school shopping is definitely an investment. But it’s an investment in your child’s future! With some smart strategies, you can get it done without breaking the bank.

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