Six Ways to Get More From Your Back-to-School Budget

back to school shopping tipsBack-to-school season is notorious for devouring your hard-earned cash.

If you’re living on a dime and looking for supplies for the upcoming school year, check out these tips about when, how, and where to shop to get the most bang from your back-to-school budget.

Start in the Attic
Cobwebs and your grandmother’s old knick-knacks don’t sound like they make the most appealing atmosphere when it comes to shopping. But you’ll be surprised what’s hiding right at home!

This is an especially great strategy for big-ticket items like furniture for your dorm room or off-campus apartment. Maybe your parents have a nice sofa they’re planning to part with. Grab it! You can also reclaim pens, binders, unused notebooks, and all sorts of other goodies just by checking out your old stuff.

Do you have any older siblings? Ask them if there’s anything on your shopping list that they have and would be willing to donate to your cause!

Shopping Equals Splurging
Not when your budget’s on the line! And that means it’s important to make sure that what you’re buying is what you’re going to be using.

For instance, did you ever walk into a department store and see the cutest-but rather expensive-must-have bedding set, complete with fluffy pillows and a quaint rug? Before you buy, consider this: do you really need the fancy extras?

If those pillows are just going to host your dust collection, think about buying a smaller set that includes just the essentials. And that goes for computers, electronics and just about anything you need; don’t buy the most expensive model if a cheaper one can satisfy the same need at an affordable price.

Budget Book Buys
And buy books, we don’t mean just fun reads. With another academic year comes another round of shelling out cash for college textbooks, many of which you’ll discard as soon as your classes are over (if not before). But there’s no rule saying you have to buy books at full price! Local used bookstores will often carry textbooks at deep discounts.

Plus, you can visit online retailers or search the Internet for Websites offering books on a budget. Finally, don’t underestimate the value of word-of-mouth shopping. Find a friend or classmate who has already taken the class that’s on your schedule next semester and buy their books!

Frugal Fashion
Will the fashion police really arrest you if you don’t stock up on the latest styles each fall? Buying an entirely new wardrobe can set you back fast. This year, instead of buying a collection of new shirts, jeans and the whole ensemble, get a few well-chosen accessories to complement your closet staples.

Colorful bracelets and handbags don’t have to be expensive, but they can add a pop of color and excitement even to outdated outfits. And if you need that runway look, choose one new piece each season that’s a must-have for your wardrobe and leave the rest on the rack. Mix and match accessories to turn one new shirt into a dozen outfit possibilities!

Outlet, Anyone?
You’ve probably heard of outlet stores, which are basically just retail stores where manufacturers sell their goods directly to the public. But have you ever shopped at one? If there are any outlet malls near your home, school, or vacation destination, give them a try, since you’ll find designer brands at low prices.

Tees, hoodies, shorts, heels, accessories-if you can think of it, you’re bound to come across it. And because outlet stores are as competitive as regular retailers, be sure to search online for coupons before hitting the (discount) mall.

Compare, Contrast, Control
That is, control spending too much for an item from the mall when the outlet store next door has the same thing for half the price. But if you don’t have time or the opportunity to wander around stores searching the cheapest buys, how can you know where the best deals are found? As always, the Internet is your friend!

Comparison shopping online is a powerful tool for making sure you get the lowest prices for just about anything without being swayed by savvy salespeople. And, as an added bonus, online retailers often have lower prices than brick ‘n’ mortar stores . . . especially when end-of-summer clearance sales are in full swing.

Photo by Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

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