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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

The Back to School Budget

Jul 28, 2011 12:00AM

Are looking for ways to to save without busting your budget? Check out these tips to help you through this shopping season.

1. Take Inventory

Consider what you'll actually need before hitting the stores. Has your child grown out of their schools clothes or will they do so by September? Can you reuse last year's school supplies or will you need to replace some items?

2. Set a Budget

Create a shopping list and stick to it, so you avoid impulse purchases. That fancy-schmancy Transformers Trapper Keeper can push your budget over the edge.

3. Use Coupons

There may be great deals, but coupons can make them even greater. Check out sites like that offer a wide selection of online, printable, and mobile coupons for back to school savings.

4. Shop Early

While it seems awfully early to think about school shopping, this is when stores are rolling out their best deals of the year. As they say, the early bird gets the worm.

5. Go Mobile

Tap into your mobile phone with apps that allow you to scan bar codes and find lower prices.

  • Amazon app — Use the barcode scanner in a store to find the item on Amazon and check it's price
  • Walmart app — Savings Catcher feature can scan your receipt after purchases at Walmart and compare prices of some items against competitors, giving you any difference back on an eGift card
  • ShopSavvy — Set alerts for when you can get a discount on specific items, and see when there are sales at major stores
  • BuyVia — Set location-based alerts for tech products, and compare prices at national and local outlets
  • Purchx — Use the barcode scanner to compare prices and get info, and earn rewards for reviewing products
  • ScanLife — Compare prices online and locally

6. Check Social Media

Facebook and Twitter are great places to find deals offered to a brand's social-media fan base. Like or Follow the merchant and keep an eye out for coupons and sales announcements.

7. Buy in Bulk

Take advantage of bulk offers on pens, crayons, paper and other items your kids will burn through over the course of the year. You might team up with other parents for bigger bulk purchases that will bring prices down even lower.

8. Spend More to Save More

Sometimes it costs money to save money. Many stores offer two for the price of one deals or savings passes of X percent for purchases over Y amount, which you can use throughout the back-to-school season.

9. Exchange

Gather your family and friends — along with their kid's school wardrobes — for an exchange night of hand-me-downs that will save everyone money.

10. Wait Until Labor Day

Labor Day is the traditional time for big sales on school clothing. You might take a chance and wait until then to buy any necessary items for your child.

11. Buy for Yourself

Back-to-school sales aren't just for kids. You might stock up on office supplies, jeans and other items that traditionally go on sale during this season.