Frugal tips to ease back-to-school shopping expenses

As the summer season winds down, the start of a new school year is fast approaching. Every new school year presents new challenges and opportunities. The anxiety of back-to-shopping can be enormous due to the already high unemployment rate and the rising cost of households goods. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, 49.6 percent of people said they plan to spend less on school supplies. The average family with students from grades Kindergarten through 12 is expecting to spend under $548.72 on school merchandise – a decline of 7.7 percent from 2008. The best strategy for back-to-school shopping is to start with a game plan. Following is some recession-friendly advice to help stretch your dollars without depriving your kids (like Kim did!)

Look for special promotions. During this time of the year many stores are offering amazing back-to-school sales. Watch out for special promotions such as free-shipping and those “buy two for one” deals.

Do your shopping during “tax free days.” These days usually last for an entire weekend in either July or August (there are still a few coming up!) This is a great time to buy t-shirts, socks, and school uniforms.

Shop at local consignment stores. The end of summer is when many thrift stores are getting great, gently used clothing. These stores offer amazing pricing for quality merchandise. Thrift stores have strict policies for accepting items so you don’t have to worry about buying anything damaged.

Take advantage of Thursday nights. Many department store sales begin on Thursday and run through Sunday. Many of us save our shopping for the weekend, but a trip to the mall on Thursday can produce great savings and you’ll get first rights on merchandise.

Finally, to save on back-to-school shopping it’s important to set a budget and stick to it. With proper planning, you can prepare your children for another school year without breaking the bank. Note from Kim: Not to sound cheap or anything (yeah, right), but you could also try playing the waiting game. Supplies that are not truly needed those first few days are bound to get cheaper after the school year gets underway!

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.