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Save Money on Back to School Shopping

10 Tips to Keep Back to School Shopping from Emptying Your Wallet

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Back to School Shopping

Back to School Shopping

Photo © Stephen Chernin / Getty Images
Parents dread the cost of back to school shopping as much as some kids dread going back to class. Get an A+ in savings with these back to school shopping tips.

Shop During Back to School Sales Tax Holidays

States with sales tax holidays save you money on everything from paper to computers. Each state sets its own rules on which products are eligible and spending limits per item.

Save more money during sales tax holidays with a little prep time. Check neighboring states with tax free days, rules on coupon use and stores with the big ticket items on sale to map out your shopping strategy before the frenzied crowd of parents hits the mall.

Get Free School Supplies

What budget-conscious parent doesn't like the sound of free school supplies? With the cost of school supplies soaring each year, spend some time studying where you can get all of your child's essentials for a new school year without having to pay a dime.

Some opportunities are restricted to families with low household incomes. But there are also plenty of media events and festivals that hand out school supplies to everyone, regardless of income.

Throw a Back-to-School Swap Party

Raid your closets for last year's back-to-school supplies and clothes your children can't wear anymore. Invite friends and neighbors over for a back-to-school swap party.

The pencil box your child wanted last fall may still look brand new. He may not want it anymore but your neighbor's child does. Even pocket folders with slightly worn edges can be someone else's treasure. A swap party gives you the chance to recycle school supplies and clothes just sitting around your house while also keeping your money in your purse.

Hit the Bargain Stores

Dollar stores may not be the first shops that come to mind for back-to-school shopping but the bargains might make you reconsider.

With rock bottom prices, you usually have to give up frills like designer-colored notebooks and polka dotted pens. Make dressing up plain school supplies an art project with your child. This helps get them excited about going to class with their unique school supplies in hand.

Shop All Year

Keep an eye on school supplies all year to make the most of deep discounts. You know your kids will always need pencils, paper and staples for school. A quick glance at the sales papers or even the impulse buy when you spot a great bargain will help you stay ahead.

Take Advantage of Layaway

Using layaway makes you a savvy shopper for a couple of reasons. First, you can pay on school supplies and clothing slowly over time instead of having to come up with a lump sum all at once. This saves you money in the long run if you tend to carry a balance on your credit card. If your credit card bill is more manageable, you're not hit all at once with a balance you're struggling to pay off.

The second reason layaway can be a money-saver is through tax free holidays. Some states allow layaways to be exempt from tax. Items you put in layaway before the tax holiday could be free from tax if you pay them off during the tax free period. You could also put items in layaway during the tax free holiday and not have to pay sales tax when you do pay the balance. Check your state's rules to make sure layaways qualify for the sales tax holiday.

Cash in on Your Kids' Clothes

There are many ways you can cash in on the clothes your kids have outgrown. Consignment shops let you sell your unwanted clothes through their stores and you get paid if someone buys your items. Selling clothing through eBay or through Craigslist is another option if you want to put your items up for auction.

Most cities also have clothing stores that allow you to bring in your child's or teen's clothes for cash. Unlike a consignment shop, you get paid right away. You can then shop the store for other gently used clothes or take your money somewhere else.

Buy at Outlet Malls

It's no secret outlet malls can save you big bucks. Tags on outlet merchandise are usually marked down between 20- and 60-percent off the retail price. Hit the store at the end of the season and find clothes marked down to $2 just to clear them from inventory.

Stockpile Seasons Ahead

Both retail stores and outlets need to move merchandise fast as one season comes to a close and another is about to begin. By thinking ahead, you can walk away with clothes for a few dollars.

Watch for sales and buy the size your child will be next year. Stockpiling clothes you've bought ahead of time will really maximize your savings.

Find Deals Online

Avoid the chaos at the malls. Do your back-to-school shopping online to save money on school supplies and clothes.

Search for online coupons, free shipping offers and stores with buy one, get one free incentives. For even better deals, use cash back sites like FatWallet.com, Ebates.com and Jellyfish.com that put money in your pocket with every purchase at your favorite store.

Use Cash Back Incentives

Using credit cards with cash back incentives gives you money back on every purchase. You must use these types of cards wisely.

It's easy to be tempted to spend more because you're getting cash back. You still want to shop smart.

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