It's that time of the year again.
The middle of August—better known to parents as back to school shopping season. Back to school shopping is one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year—and even though there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the coming school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, one thing is sure—school must go on!
The National Retail Federation, which has been conducting back to school surveys since 2003, estimated that families with kids in grades K-12 will spend an average of nearly $800 this year in school supplies.
Back to school spending trends have been growing at a faster rate than inflation for many years now. As the number of underfunded schools across America continues to rise, parents are asked to supply more items themselves each school year.
If you're one of the many parents sitting at home with a long list (or maybe no list), confused about where to start and dreading the cost of back to school shopping, we've rounded up 15 tips to help you save more money this year on back to school supplies.
1. Check Your Home
Always shop your home first! You might be surprised at how many items on the school supply list you already have in your house. You might get lucky and find all the notebook paper you could ever need stashed away in a closet, long forgotten about until now! The point is—check your house for what you need before you even think about shopping.
2. Know When to Shop
The best time to shop is early...or late. Retailers start putting back to school displays out with incentive sales as early as late June. However, prices also decrease as schools open and stores try to sell off the remaining inventory. Typically, kids won't need everything on the first day. Check with the teacher and see when things are required. Buying those supplies the day after your child's school starts could save you a surprising amount.
3. The Power of a Dollar
Shop the dollar store first. The Dollar Tree has basic supplies such as paper, binders, posters, and index cards that are priced significantly lower and yet are just as good quality as other retailers. After the dollar stores, Target Dollar Spots and the online bullseye playground have great back to school deals.
4. Check Store's Loss Leaders
These are the store's spotlight sale items that are sold at such low prices, they result in a loss for the retailer. If a store's loss leader item is something you need—you aren't likely to find a better deal than that!
5. Swap Supplies
Join or start a Facebook group in your community for school supply swaps. Lots of groups offer the option to buy and sell the items, or even to make trades or donations.
6. Pre-Owned Goods
If you're shopping for electronics, consider buying refurbished or second-hand items. Amazon Renewed offers pre-owned, professionally inspected, and tested electronics at a notably lower price than brand new products. Even better, they offer a 90-day full refund policy. Apple, Best Buy, and Overstock also have similar second-hand sites with discounted items.
7. Only Buy One "Back to School" Outfit...to Start
Don't buy a new wardrobe before school starts. If there is nothing your child(ren) needs right away, try just buying them one brand new outfit, so they still get to experience the sensation of the "first day of school outfit." Fall clothes coincidentally hit retailers' shelves in August and generally remain priced high for a while. Hold off on buying fall and winter wardrobes until late September through the beginning of October to see steep price cuts.
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8. Check Sales for Uniforms
If school uniforms are a requirement, check The Gap, Old Navy, and Target for some great sales on new uniforms. When shopping for pre-owned uniforms, some schools offer uniform exchanges and can provide free donated uniforms.
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9. Check Donations
If you're struggling to afford items, check with charitable organizations. The Salvation Army has the "stuff the bus" donation system, which gives out school supplies to children in their communities. United Way, Red Cross, The Boy's and Girl's Club, and the YMCA all offer similar donations as well.
10. Check Price Trends
Shop camel camel camel before purchasing on Amazon. Their website allows you to search Amazon product price trends and see if you are getting a deal or not.
11. Check Apps
If you want to make sure you're getting the best prices when shopping, download ShopSavvy and scan the item's barcode to see if there's a better price.
Start with the big-ticket items. If you simply don't have the time to shop around for the best price on every little thing on the list, prioritize researching the most expensive items on the list to get a savings boost.
13. Reduced Sales Tax
Check to see if your state offers a sales tax holiday.
14. Contact the School
Contact your school if you can't afford something. Many schools offer electronics, internet service payment assistance, or free supplies to children in need.
15. Leave the Kids at Home
Leave the kids at home when shopping. Trust me on this one—you can save so much this way! And if your kid is really insistent on having an expensive name-brand backpack this year, there's nothing wrong with making them chip in for the cost.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.