Ahh, kids: nature’s little moneypits. The back-to-school season is a particularly appalling time, when parents everywhere struggle to stock up on all the goods they’ll need in the coming months. At Bankrate.com, professional parent and advice-giver Peter J. Sander suggests that you make saving money on back-to-school purchases a family project, by giving your kids budgets, helping them figure out how to save for big ticket items by scrimping on less important ones, and — our personal favorite — “deprogramming” them before you leave your house:
How will you get your child the name-brand items he wants while staying under budget? You won’t. Sander says that to avoid having your child fall into a I-can’t-possibly-wear-this-if-it-isn’t-Nike meltdown at the store, you need to de-program him from commercials. “We teach our kids the ‘disvalue’ of brands. We point out commercials and say, ‘They are trying to get you to buy that. You can either buy it or think for yourself,’” he says.
Victoria Jacobson of The Foundation for Credit Education suggests (in the same article) that you re-use as many leftover supplies and hand-me-down clothes as possible, but that you frame it as “recycling” to avoid the used-goods stigma. Her argument? Being environmentally conscious is a popular topic these days, so maybe your kids will find it easier to get behind that than the “let’s all save money” meme. (And if they refuse, you can try to scare them into compliance by telling them stories of the “Inconvenient Man,” then putting on an Al Gore mask and jumping out of their closets at one in the morning. And no, we don’t have any kids.)
By now, everyone knows that you can make out like a bandit on super-cheap supplies if you catch the right sale at some nationwide office supply stores and discount retailers. There’s also a few remaining tax holidays coming up (Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas, as of August 6th). But Deborah Ng at SimplyThrifty suggests the following unconventional sources: your local Freecycle group, those ubiquitous dollar stores, and garage sales. All three have their drawbacks–Freecycle lives and dies on location and random availability, dollar stores aren’t known for quality anything, and hitting 10 garage sales on a Saturday morning arguably wastes more money in gas than it saves in scoring that gently used backpack. But depending on your location, budget, and lifestyle (maybe you live in one of those neighborhoods where there are a dozen garage sales every weekend in a six block radius), they might be worthwhile strategies.
5 tips for saving on back-to-school gear [Bankrate.com]