Five Clever Ways to Save on Back-to-School

clever ways to save on back to school


It was weird to see so many first day of school pictures online this morning, but kids around here go back to school this week. Every time I think about this time of the year, I feel a little sick. Not only does it mean my summer break is over, but it also reminds me of the stress and expense of that enormous shopping list. Even though our school supply list is now minimal, I thought I would share some clever ideas for school savings that I’ve discovered along the way.


  1. If your child wears basic uniform attire that you don’t need to purchase from a specific store, try to hold off from buying too much right now. A lot of stores are going to have uniform items on sale a couple of weeks after school starts, and you’ll be able to stock up for the rest of the year. Pick up a size larger too if your child is growing like a weed. You’ll be glad you did when you need it and have to pay full price later in the year.
  2. Make a list and check prices and availability across a variety of stores. Get your friends involved and share information with them. If you grab the class supply list and three friends, you can each price check one store and compare. Now you are all getting the best deals.
  3. Don’t forget about quality. You are not really saving money if you buy the 5 cent folders that rip to shreds after the first week of school. The same is true for polo shirts that pill or get holes. Don’t go overboard though. My son used to manage to get holes in the knees of pants even though I got him the good Lands End pants with iron knees. Eventually, I just made him wear shorts. Also, I decided not to spend $35 on those pants when he tore them up at the same rate as a less expensive pair.
  4. Look for coupon savings available through apps like Ibotta or Target Cartwheel in addition to the store’s advertised sales.
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. If last year’s clothes, shoes, or gear still fits, God bless you. Make use of those things at the start of school and look into getting something new when back-to-school goes on sale. A new backpack also makes a good birthday or Christmas gift.


Bonus Savings Tip: Stay at home. I used to dread back-to-school time. New backpacks, uniforms, sneakers, lunch boxes, loads of expensive school supplies, deposits on back-to-school activities, soccer shoes, tap shoes, ballet shoes, jazz shoes, soccer uniforms, and leotards. Back-to-school could easily run over $1000 for two kids. Plus, the stress of needing to find that exact pencil case or risk being chastised by the teacher. None of that. We are starting our homeschool year next week, and back-to-school has cost me less than $50. I buy things through the year when they are on sale, find a lot of free material online, and choose products that we can use for a long time. I’ve learned to be a lot more efficient over time. I’m not really suggesting that you homeschool just to save money, but it is just one of the many benefits.

retirement savings working women

The Gender Gap in Retirement Savings: Three Tips for Working Women

retirement savings working women
Image: Ambro @

The gender gap in retirement savings is real, and there are two main culprits for this gap. The first is that on average women earn less than men. Not only is it true that too often women are getting paid less as men to do the same job, but the bigger problem from a retirement savings perspective is that women are generally employed in lower paying fields and positions. This puts women at a clear disadvantage when you look at total retirement dollars. However, the gender gain retirement savings is minimal when you compare when and men in the same position or income level.

The second component in the gender gap is that on average women work 12 years less than men over the course of their career. In particular, many women put their careers on hold or work only part-time while they raise their young children. This creates a huge loss in retirement savings early in life when that income is so critical. One of the best tips for retirement savings success is to start early because the compounding effect of your rate of return is able to do so much of the work for you.

So, I have three tips to help women with their retirement savings:
1. Educate yourself. Women are not necessarily less financially literate than men, but they are certainly less confident in their knowledge. Read, ask questions, and gain the knowledge you need to confidently manage your finances. There are so many great books and web sites specializing in personal finance and investment topics. Find a place where you feel comfortable asking questions.

2. Don’t rely on social security or your spouse’s retirement plan. Invest in yourself for yourself. Don’t skimp on putting money into your retirement account because you would rather spend it on your family. You are not being selfish but are looking out for your future needs so that you won’t be a financial burden on your children when they are grown.

3. Increase your retirement savings as quickly as possible. Max out your 401(k) contribution with your company or seek out an alternative IRA if your employer does not offer a retirement savings plan. The sooner you can start adding money to your account, the better off you are because compounding interest can do a lot of the work for you. As a matter of fact, the money you save for retirement from your first job will have a much greater impact on your retirement date than will your salary at retirement. Compounding interest is a true miracle of finance.

Are you saving for your retirement now? When did you start? Do you feel in control of your retirement account or are you completely lost? What do you wish you knew about retirement when you got your first job? 


Six Summer Blockbuster Savings Tips


source: Salvatore Vuono at
Summer is the season for blockbuster Hollywood movies, and a trip to the movies is a great way to escape the rain or stifling heat on a summer day with the kids. Movie prices in major cities, however, are outrageously high. Consider a family of 4 or 5 and some extras, and the cost can easily exceed $100 for a family trip to the movies. I don’t think I am the only one who finds this ridiculous. Costs are a little less where we live, but it can still get expensive when we  go to the movies as a family. Summer is usually the only time we are not too busy to see a movie, but when we go I am still looking for ways to save. Here are some ideas for enjoying your summer movie experience without breaking the bank.


1. Go early. Late afternoon and night are the busiest times for the movie theater, so go earlier in the day. You get better seats, and most theaters offer discounted matinee tickets.


2. Don’t buy online. Sure, buying your tickets ahead of time online through Fandango or some other service is convenient. The service charges, however, can add up if you are buying several tickets. The money you save by purchasing tickets at the theater will pay for your popcorn.


3. Bring your own snacks. Check on the rules of the theater, but you may be able to bring in your own snacks and save money at the concession stand. Now, it they sell M&M’s and you bring your own M&M’s, this may not fly. If you bring your own trail mix or chips in a ziplock bag, however, they are less likely to say anything to you. So many people have dietary restrictions now that it is easier for the theater to just let it go. Like I said, unless you are bringing a giant bag of Sour Patch Kids.


4. Snack Economics. Pack individual brown bags for each of the kids, buy one giant tub of popcorn, and divide the popcorn among the kids. It’s a lot cheaper than buying 4 or 5 popcorn buckets. Also, ask about the policy on popcorn and drink refills. Some theaters will give you a free refill if you buy the large popcorn or drink.


5. Join a rewards program. Some theaters offer discounted tickets or snacks for rewards members. If the program is free, sign up right now! Our theater charges a small fee to join, and our visits are so seldom that it never seemed worthwhile. For movie buffs, however, it would definitely be worth the cost.


6. Check out summer movie specials. Most movie theaters have a special kids summer movie series that is a great deal. The movies are not new releases, but they are still great movies. Our local theater offers their summer movie series two mornings a week. Admission, a small box of popcorn, and a kids drink is just $3.50! They have been showing great movies too like The Lego Movie and Shrek! Go see what is available in your town!


What summer movies do you want to see? What have you seen this summer that you loved and would recommend? We’ve only managed to see Jurassic World, but it was excellent.