Everyone agrees: the economy isn't what it used to be. Nevertheless, we here in the developed world enjoy access to great resources, whatever our budget. With a little ingenuity and drive, you can stretch your back-to-school buck twice as far without ever noticing the difference. Here are some tips on how to make back-to-school shopping a fun and affordable process.
Companies print coupons with the expectation that not everyone will use them, so it's your job to remember that coupon book the next time you head out for school supplies. For the internet savvy, it's possible to get 6pm coupon codes and other deals online just by searching for them by store or site name. Those making online purchases shouldn't ignore the "coupon code" text field just before placing their order, either. Oftentimes, it's possible to get such a code for free with a little savvy web searching. It's a good thing.
This may not help you for this back-to-school season, but your wallet will thank you next year if you invest a little time in September or October to buy up all those closeout school supplies. Shopping late in the year means less selection, but if you visit two or three stores instead of just one, you'll be sure to get all the supplies you need without settling for less. Check out the online sales, too, where issues of stocking are virtually nonexistent.
Do a Second-Hand Store Road Trip
There's no shame in checking out Salvation Army or Goodwill once in a while, but the lack of selection found at those stores is not likely to please back-to-school trendsetters. The key to smart thrifting is to pick out the areas near you with the highest average income, as there will be the highest turnover of recently-manufactured, high-quality clothes and supplies in their thrift stores. If you live on the East Coast, consider a road trip to the ritzier parts of Connecticut, while Midwesterners could check out the northern Chicago suburbs, and West-Coasters will find that California is dotted with higher-income communities that are perfect for their thrifting needs.
Find a Community Sharing Group
In many areas, websites like FreeCycle and Craigslist provide a forum for residents to exchange supplies directly, rather than operating through a third party like the thrift stores mentioned above. The platform is easy. Scroll through existing postings for free stuff, or post a request and see who responds. Such websites can be sleepy, slow-moving communities, harkening back to the Usenet boards of the antique internet, so it's advisable to post your requests sooner rather than later.
Make The Internet Work for You
Textbooks can be very expensive, but purchased second-hand on websites like Amazon and eBay, they can end up costing only a few dollars, in Amazon's case with a streamlined re-selling format that ensures you'll recoup most of your dollar value at the end of the term with a little effort. Amazon's second-hand deals are also consistently unbeatable for electronics and other supplies, while for clothing, websites like ShopStyle allow you to find specific items for the lowest possible price with an easy searching and sorting function that's perfect for any picky but price-conscious buyer.
These are just a few of the ways you can reduce the strain back-to-school shopping puts on your wallet. Many individuals and families have their own budgeting traditions. What's your favorite way to stretch your back-to-school dollar?
Elsa C is an undergraduate studying pre-medical science and language on the East Coast. She enjoys freelance writing and tutoring in her spare time and loves new venues for sharing tips and shortcuts for a laid-back, worry-free life.