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The Ultimate Back to School Shopping Guide

It’s back to school time and you’re looking for the best way to shop and get it all done. Here are some tips to make shopping back-to-school a little bit easier and help you get what you need so that you can focus on the things that really matter: your kids!

It’s back to school time, but don’t let it be a drag! Shopping for everything from clothes to pencils can be overwhelming and frustrating, especially as a mom. But there are ways to make it easier for yourself and your family – and right here on our blog!

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Now, let’s go through everything you need to think about when it comes to back to school shopping with tips from moms who have done it.  That’s why we’ve combined all of our awesome back to school shopping tips into one guide

Back to School Shopping – What to Watch For

Looking for the ultimate in saving money with your back to school shopping?  Here’s what you should be thinking about as you get ready to put together your back to school shopping strategy.

 This last Saturday evening one of my best friends and I went to Wal-Mart to buy school supplies (yeah, we’re party animals).  Our kids go to the same small school, and our oldest boys are in the same class.  We went without our kids, for many reasons, but mainly because we knew we would not spend as much money. 

You see, character covered notebooks that my kids beg for are always more expensive than the plain solid colored ones.  It’s not worth the headache so we just go with out them.  Armed with three different class supply lists we headed out to put Wal-Mart’s price guarantees to the test!

I had already gone online and checked out the current week’s ads from Office Max, Staples, Office Depot, Fred Meyer and Target.  It was a piece of cake to find all the ads using www.sundaysaver.com

You choose your state to narrow down the ads you want to view and then pick the category that best fits your needs.  I went to Department & Grocery Stores and Office Supplies and scoured each one for the supplies I needed.

Under each supply I wrote in the cheapest price and which store it was from.  For the most part it was easy to locate the supplies I needed in each ad but I did find problems with “store brand” items that Wal-Mart (and other stores) can’t price match on. 

For example:  We needed 4 solid colored paper pocket folders with prongs.  At Staples they were advertized for $0.05 a piece, and at Office Depot they were only $0.01!  But these pocket folders were Staples and Office Depot store brands so Wal-Mart can not price match them. 

Would it be worth it do make a special trip to Office Depot?  Well, at Wal-Mart they were $0.15 a piece for a difference of $0.56 for the 4 of them, definitely not worth the gas or the time.

Here’s something else to watch out for.  Stores will put maybe five or six of the things from your child’s list on sale or a special deal but then the rest of the items are regular price.  It would be great to get the folders mentioned above for $0.01 a piece at Office Depot. 

But it’s not worth it to pay $4 (their advertized price) for the Avery Write-on note book dividers that I can get at Wal-Mart for $1.22.

I also found over the course of four weeks that eventually each store runs all the different school supplies through on a special deal.  But it’s just not worth it in time and gas to run to the store four different times for just a few supplies each time.

When you go to stores that price match its great, but you must be very organized about having each ad with you.  Be sure to circle each item in the ads that you are hoping to price match and only bring the pages with you that you need. 

Also to make things faster as you are shopping make sure to note under each supply what price is the best and which ad it’s in.  Or better yet, just go to Wal-Mart where you don’t need the ad, just your notes!

While we were at Wal-Mart I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was only one, yes ONE, supply that I even needed to ask for the price match.  All the other items on my list were cheaper at Wal-Mart than any other stores advertized price!  Avery 1” three ring binders were advertized at Target for $2 a piece and at Wal-Mart they were $2.74. 

At check out I told the cashier about the price difference and she asked me for my ad.  “D’OH!”  Obviously the corporate ‘no ad needed’ news hadn’t reached the cashier or her manager all the way over here in Oregon.  So I told them about it.  They were really nice about it and price matched the notebooks for me anyway! 

I love good customer service even if they were still skeptical of my ‘no ad needed’ claim.  I’ll be sending a nice note Wal-Mart corporate with a gentle reminder about making sure all their employees know about company guarantees. 

Curious about what was on our lists and what the total was?  Me too!  We didn’t find two items: #2 Ticonderoga yellow pencils and a composition book (100 pgs.), they were sold out.  This is where I ended up hitting Amazon.

Another Back to School Shopping Strategy

Still trying to figure out the best back to school shopping strategy for you?  Here’s another expert (mom’s) opinion.  Shopping with four kids, ages eight and under, is not a fun adventure, that’s why I try to scout out the best deals and have a plan of attack before I even leave the house.

 Here’s how I start.  I take both of my boys supply lists and highlight everything that’s the same on the lists this way I know to double my count.  At their school they need typical things like paper, scissors, and glue sticks.

I know that I will be able to find these at just about any store that sells school supplies.  Unfortunately, there are some supplies that are not so typical like the Ticonderoga brand, six sided, red pencils (don’t ask, it’s a sore subject).     I try to talk with other parents whose kids were in the class last year as to where they bought theirs and where to get the best price.

Once I know where to find the six sided, red pencils that’s the place I start with when comparing prices.  The hope is that I can get them all in one place.  It’s a bonus when I can find all the school supplies at a large store that carries everything from back-to-school supplies to clothes & shoes, and groceries too!

I like to create one big master list with everything on it for both boys back-to-school needs, including things like backpacks, sandwich bags, and water bottles. 

Next to each items I include the quantity and any specific notes like brand names, specials like buy 3 get 1 free, or abbreviations like a ‘Q’ for coupon.  Yes, I know coupon is spelled with a C but it’s my personal belief that it should be spelled with a Q, Q-pon.  🙂

If you find that you really do have to go to more than one store make a separate list for each store.  This will keep you on task and save you time.

Ultimately the best way to know that you are getting the cheapest price possible is to just head to Walmart.  They will price match their competitors prices and you don’t even need the ad!  You can read more about it at: https://walmartstores.com/pressroom/news/10634.aspx .  

Any store that will price match is a guaranteed best bet as long as they carry what you need.  Personally, Walmart is my top pick because they sell school uniforms for cheap!  My boys go to a charter school where they can only wear khaki (and you thought I spelled Q-pon weird) or navy blue pants and red polos.  Yes, just red.  Again, don’t ask, it won’t make any sense anyway.

What’s even better is to just order everything online!  Places like www.walmart.com can save you time and money by having it all delivered to the store so you won’t have to pay shipping costs.  Actually, right now Walmart is offering free shipping to your home on a ton of back-to-school items!  www.amazon.com also has thousands of school supplies and many of them qualify for their FREE super saver shipping.

Aaaaahhhhh, *Sigh of relief*.  I love back-to-school shopping online.  No more dragging all four kids through the jungle of shoppers while trying to hunt down the rare and elusive Ticonderoga, six sided, red pencils.

Back to School Shopping Tips

Let’s start with the major things to think about when it comes to back to school shopping, and talk about different strategies.

As summer comes to a close and teachers begin to set up their classrooms, kids and parents start to look ahead towards the new school year as well. As parents, we have a lot to do to prepare our kids for the first day back to school.

Taking them school shopping for some new clothing, backpacks and other essentials can be not only time consuming, but pricey. Here are a few tips that can help minimize time spent and money taken out of your wallet.

Back to school shopping with multiple children?  Try it one at a time

school shopping

If you have more than one child, it would be a good idea to focus on taking one child at a time to do their back to school shopping. Also, each child has their own style and favorite stores that they enjoy shopping, so by splitting up your trips you will better be able to cater to each individual child.

Also, this will cut down on the number of stops you have to make in one day. Another idea would be to have your spouse taken one child to tackle their shopping, while you take the other. Perhaps even enlist grandparents or older siblings to help out as well! By doing this, it will take some of the stress off of one person.

Do your homework before you go

back to school shopping

Before you head out to hit the mall or your favorite department store, gather up the sales fliers from each store from the previous week’s newspaper or check out their website to see what is on sale.

Let your kids look at both the fliers and the websites to get an idea of different items they may want to try and find in store. Most of the time the items shown on the website and in the fliers are available at most stores.

Also, have your children try on their pants, shirts and shoes from the previous spring to see how much they’ve grown over the summer. If items are too small, you will know to go up a size while out shopping. This can save time in the dressing room!

Make sure you give you children an estimated budget too! Encourage them to look for deals and possibly incorporate some of the clothes they already own into their new fall wardrobe to help cut costs a little.

Use your best judgement

back to school clothes

Some kids are very easy going when it comes to what they wear to school or what color their new backpack is. If you are lucky enough to have a child like this, see if you can do the majority of their back to school shopping by yourself.

For example, if your son is into dinosaurs and you are in Target for other errands and see a neat dinosaur t-shirt in his size, why not just pick it up and bring it home to see if he’d like it for school in the fall? If not, simply return it to the store. As parents, we wash and fold our children’s clothes over and over again.

This gives us a pretty good idea into the types of clothes our kids like to wear. Use this knowledge to your advantage and enjoy some solitary shopping for back to school items.

The internet is your friend

online school shopping

If you have Amazon Prime, you can easily get all of your back to school shopping done just online. Set each kid up on a mobile device and let them add items to their online shopping cart just like they would do if at a box store.

If they are really young, ask them what kind of outfits they’d like to wear to their new classroom and simply do a search. If you are a Prime member, make sure the items are shipped by Amazon and within the Prime membership. In two days, you will receive your clothing items, and if they don’t fit or your child doesn’t like it, you can easily return them for free through Prime.

In addition to Amazon, many box stores offer great deals on bulked orders as well. For example, Target typically ships items over $35 or more for free within 2 days! Exchanges can be made in store too!

The beauty of shopping online for back to school items, is that you can be sure to find your size and browse everything the store has to offer. The downside is that your child won’t get to see how they look in certain outfits or feel the material before purchasing it.

Awesome Back to School Items

Back to school can be a hard time, its a huge adjustment for kids starting to get back into their routine and schedule.

Here are some of our favorite back to school items to help ease the transition for both parents and kids, and some of these things are just plain fun!

Lego Create a Watch

Have a lego lover?  Help your kids stay on schedule with this colorful time piece.

Lego DC Comics Super Heroes Wonder Woman Kids Minifigure Link Buildable Watch
Get it!

Lego makes some pretty cool buildable watches that make a great back to school activity

Back Packs

Backpacks are a must have when it comes to back to school.  This is probably one of the easiest ways to help get your child excited about going back!

If you can’t find what you are looking for in a sure, be sure to take a look on JanSport SuperBreak One Backpack - Lightweight School Bookbag, Black

 

As you start to get organized for the new school year, you may come across some old stuff hanging around.  here’s some ideas on what you can do with it.

Old Socks

Place an empty jar into an old, colorful sock. Tuck excess fabric inside the jar and fill with pencils, pens, etc…

In and Out Boxes for kid’s school papers

Make space on a wall, counter or even inside a kitchen cabinet for two “in boxes”. Label one “In” and one “Out”.

Kids place permission slips, etc into “in box”, after school. Come morning, they can grab signed permission slips and anything else that needs to get back to school from the white “out box”.

Large Hooks

Lastly, install a hook near your child’s workstation, for her to hang her backpack. That way, all assignments are within reach when she’s doing her homework.

We hope these ideas helped you get ready for back to school shopping!  Good luck!

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