Top Ten Tips for Stress-Free Back-to-School Shopping
1. Make a List.
Make sure to have the list of all the supplies you need before you plan your attack. Combine your lists of stationery store items, backpacks and school supplies, uniforms/new clothes, and lunch supplies and print it out before you leave the house. Links like this one from Passionate Penny Pincher even provide you with a pricing comparison so you can decide where to buy which items. Many sites like Passionate Penny Pincher and Coupon Diva have weekly posts that show you where to get the best deals for that week. Some posts are sent to you in email while others post directly to their sites.
2. Go Early.
Many people seem to go back-to-school shopping at the same time which results in frazzled nerves and frustrated folks. Go early in the season if you’re not as interested in the coupons or latest styles. But, if you’re fine with waiting a bit, go first thing in the morning. Avoid Mondays and don’t wait until the week (or even two) before school is back in session.
3. Plan a Break.
If you know you’ll be hitting several stops in one spree, plan a coffee break or a lunch break after crossing several to-do items off your list. You’ll appreciate the time off your feet and the sustenance to help you forge ahead.
4. Go with a Buddy.
If you’re taking on the shoe store, go with a friend. You can help one another find styles and sizes and make an outing of it. If you’re shopping for children, they can help entertain one another during the lulls.
5. Consider Parking.
If you’re going to be doing quite a bit of shopping in a mall or strip center, consider choosing a parking spot where you can deposit purchases and keep attacking that list. You’ll be glad you don’t have to carry all those notebooks and pens around the shoe store. It improves your efficacy and mood. Twofer!
6. Keep Track of all Your Receipts.
This will help if you need to return or exchange something because the teacher asks for you to have a three-subject notebook instead of five.
7. Reuse Items.
We learned this in our house. The first few years of buying school supplies were fun. There’s nothing like a fresh, clean notebook. Am I right?! However, at the end of several school years in a row, I found that certain supplies (although required) were never used to capacity (red pens are a perfect example). So, this year, my daughter went through the supplies from last spring and culled through what works for this year. Then, we set out to buy the new notebooks (I love them!) and whatever else was missing. We also decided that last year’s rolling backpack and lunch box still work, so that was a savings, too.
8. Pay with a Rewards Card.
This may or may not apply to you. If you’re able to use a credit card, then by all means use one that is going to earn you a reward (It doesn’t matter whether you get cash back, air miles, hotel points, Starbucks points, Amazon points…you get the idea.) and make the cost beneficial to you on another level.
9. Use Common Sense.
If the list states “four packs of filler paper (100 sheets)” and there is a single pack of 500 sheets that is cheaper, get the bargain pack. Whether the teacher is okay with this or not, you’ve saved money and are still getting what’s required—even if it’s not packaged the way it was requested. By the same token, if it says “Two boxes of tissues,” yours comes in packs of three, and you can afford to donate the third, go for it! The teacher will be adding things to the classroom throughout the year and not asking for reimbursement. This is particularly true if it is a homeschool!
10. Have Fun.
Don’t forget that September is like New Year’s only slightly different. You can create a clean slate and start fresh with routines and habits. For some inspiration, check out Gretchen Rubin’s “September Is the Other January, the Fun of Post-It Notes, and What ‘They’ Think” podcast episode for some great ideas.