Cool Ideas

Back to School Savings

Back to school shopping can be overwhelming for many of our budgets, but there are ways to strategically take advantage of special deals and coupons if you take the time to plan and research before you shop.

Back to school season is also a big time of year for grocery coupon distribution. Shoppers are back from vacation and are doing more cooking at home, so food companies issue twice as many coupons as they did earlier in the summer. Use and CoolSavings to save on your lunches, snacks and school year meals.

The key to saving is planning: Take time to discuss what your student wants, inventory what you already have, and make a specific list of what they need to buy to save money, time and stress.

Inventory your students' clothes to prevent overbuying: Go through drawers and closets to inventory your child's current wardrobe. Sort out the items that are too small or never get worn at all and donate them to a local charity to help their clients. Older children's acceptable outgrown clothes can go to a younger sibling, if possible.

Buying shoes with free coupons: The back to school season is the busiest time of year for shoe sales and stores have many special promotions. Because common promotions are "buy one pair, get the second pair 50% off" it makes sense to take your children shoe shopping together. If you can find a coupon to use along with special promotions, you will really save. Watch for special promotions in the newspaper ad circulars, coupon mailers and store flyers.

School Supplies-stock up at 90% off: Take advantage of price matching for school supplies. Basic school supplies are at their lowest price at this time of year (50-90% off)-some items are as low as 5 cents each. Check the advertising circulars for grocery stores, drugstores, office supply stores and even dollar stores. Find the lowest advertised price for every item that you need, circle the item and price in each circular, and take all of the circulars to the closest store that "price matches," meaning they will honor any other store's lower price. Call stores ahead of time to ask if they price match. For example, if you have a Wal-mart store in your area, they have a national price matching policy. However, many stores will match competitors' prices if you ask. You will save time, money and gas!

Backpacks: For younger children, the $5 backpacks on sale at discount and drugstores may be all they need. As students get older, it may be worth investing in a higher quality backpack to last several years. You can expect a good backpack to last a few years and provide the necessary support and padding for heavier books.

Buy School Clothes later in the year and find free coupons: Wait until a few weeks into the school year to stock up on new clothes, to take advantage of later-in-the-season sales and to give your child time to see what new styles they like. Do not overbuy, which is easy to do before you see what your children like. Once the school year is going for a few weeks you can sit down with your child and plan what they need and prefer.

  • Look for advertising circulars in the newspaper for your stores. Many will have generous coupons in addition to sale prices.
  • Check your store websites for coupons and promotions. Sign up for their email newsletter or credit card to get special coupons and discounts (as long as you pay off the credit card balance every month-paying high interest charges to get coupons does not make sense).
  • Check for grocery coupons or online coupons at your favorite retailers.
  • Check sites and print free coupons from outlet mall websites, for example,
  • Subscribe to the email newsletter of your local mall. You will be sent information and free coupons for special promotions.