When did August get here?
I can’t believe summer vacation will be over for us in less than a week! These last few days have been busy for me as we just returned from vacation and since then I’ve been school shopping, supply ordering, and getting ready for orientations. Not to mention that I’m back at work too. Good times!
For most of us, back to school is bitter sweet. Every August I am counting down the days like it’s Christmas. I wake up with the end in sight, “only five days left until the kids are back in school– yay!” I’m excited because I don’t have to deal with the non-stop fighting from boredom, or finding the endless activities for them to do. I don’t have to explain why we are having grilled cheese and ham again for lunch or why we are not going to the zoo. Let the teachers deal with them!
Okay, it’s not that bad and really I get sad that another summer has passed. It means time is flying. Soon it’ll be the summer before high school then summer before college. Yikes!
I shouldn’t complain because we had a wonderful summer this year. Relaxation, travel, and creating life long memories. I’m okay with the impending two hours of homework every weeknight, remembering which teacher wanted what extra item by which date, or form to fill out and sign, or who has a special in class event where parents are
required “encouraged” to attend and God forbid if you are the only parent that doesn’t show up because all the other moms work from home. And even though you explained to your child that mommy and daddy had to work, you still come home to the complaints that you “never” go to “any” school events.
Oops, I digress.
Now for the tips.
I’ve got eight years and three kids worth of back to school shopping under my belt. Hopefully by now I’ve figured out how to do this with some efficiency and money saving tips. This year I saved us over $75.00 by using coupons, finding deals, and shopping the ads. Here’s how I did it in four simple steps.
1) Shop the ads and ask stores to honor their price match guarantees. In the past I used to go from store to store and compare prices. That was just plain silly and a huge waste of time and gas. Now I shop the ads on-line first and comparison shop from the comfort of my home or office. Check your lists, determine which store has most of the items you need and at the best prices. Then print the prices or the ads for the stores you don’t plan to shop at but that offer the best deals on an item. Bring the ads/prices with you to your base store and then show the cashier the competitor’s ad offering the better price. Most stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Office Max, and Staples will match the price of their competitors. Voila, you just got a deal!
2) Use coupons. I’m surprised how many people don’t use coupons or don’t realize that most stores will accept competitor coupons. You don’t have to wait for the Sunday paper any more to get your coupons. You can use free on-line sources such as Smart Source or Red Plum. Some stores now offer their own coupons on-line. Target is new to this list. Check out Target’s coupons here. They are easily download and printed in just a few seconds.
3) Stack the deal; use a competitor coupon and manufacturer’s coupon on another’s store’s deal. This is called ”stacking” and doing a “match-up.” For example, Publix had buy one get one on an item that Target had a coupon for, plus I had a manufacturer’s coupon. This saved me big money. Sometimes you can get the items free or almost free. This doesn’t take hours of time and it’s not as hard as you may think. There are several websites that will do all of this work for you. One of my favorites is Kitty’s blog at Coupon Divas. It’s a great one stop shop for all your coupon and match-up tools you’ll want. Check out Kitty’s “how-to” videos especially the one on coupon matchups . It’s well worth the eight minutes you’ll spend watching the video!
4) Save yourself the hassle of being caught in the hustle and bustle; order on-line with free shipping or pick up your ordered items at a location closest to you. Several stores are offering free shipping deals which saves time and gas. You can also shop on-line then pick up the items at your convenience. On the way home from work, the gym, on Saturday. Whichever. I do this at Wal-Mart. It’s perfect for back to school (and Christmas shopping). Your bags will be waiting for you at lay-away which usually means no lines and no worries. In and out and you are done – perfecto! Read here for more details on Wal-Mart’s Site-to-Store pick-up procedures it’s easy!
That’s it! Four simple steps to save you time and money.