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.

how to survive black friday tips for shopping and saving

How to Survive Black Friday

how to survive black friday tips for shopping and saving

People seem to have a love-hate relationship with Black Friday. Some people swear by it for getting deals on holiday shopping. Others swear it off completely. I’m going to start with a  disclaimer that I am one of the people who swears off the stores on Black Friday. One time I went to Target in the early morning hours on Black Friday for a specific item. There is no deal good enough to get me to get up in the middle of the night to shop. I value my sleep too highly. And seriously? I am not camping out in a parking lot even if they are going to give me a free 50-inch TV! A closet full of Jimmy Choos? Maybe. Aside from that, never.


Aside from my aversion to long lines and psychotic shoppers, I have two complaints about Black Friday. First, I hate that corporate marketing experts have decided to push Black Friday up into Thanksgiving. If you open your doors earlier, shoppers will visit your store first and spend a majority of their money with you. So, everyone keeps backing it up until you are not shopping on Friday at all. It’s not fair to the store employees and detracts from the spirit of the holiday. I like that several retailers have finally just said no and pushed back. Second, Black Friday is a recipe for disastrous overspending. There you are, all hyped up on caffeine and peppermint. Doorbusters and special deals are sparkling in your eyes. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the hype and spend too much buying extra things you really don’t need at all.


So, how can you survive Black Friday without melting your credit cards in the process? I have two suggestions.
  1. Stay home. My Black Friday shopping is limited to a handful of online deals. I know what I want, I buy those items, and I am not tempted by all of the other deals. Plus, I can do it from the comfort of home while wearing pajamas and drinking hot chocolate. If you are doing this too, please go ahead and click over on the sponsors in my sidebar on Black Friday. They will all be offering special deals on great products that I love, and you get to support this site while you shop. Thanks!
  2. If you can’t bear to miss out on Black Friday, do some work ahead of time to keep your spending in check. First, match up your shopping list with the advertised deals. Write down the items you are looking for at each store along with the price. When you get to the store, check the items off your list. Stick to your list. Do not deviate unless you see an item that was already on your Christmas shopping list. Once you leave the house, do not add to the list. Download this FREE BLACK FRIDAY PRINTABLE to help you stay on task and on budget.
identity theft hackers holidays protect money finances

Beyond Budgeting: Protecting Your Wallet During the Holidays

identity theft hackers holidays protect money finances


The official start of the holiday shopping season is just one week away. After I wrote that, I had to take a minute to digest it. How about you? The holidays are a pretty busy time for your schedule and your bank account. We have to try not to become entranced by the visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads and stay smart about our money.


If you take a minute to think like a criminal, the holidays are a pretty great time for fraud and theft.  Although debit cards are so much better to use from a budgeting perspective, they are definitely not as safe to use as credit cards during the busy holiday season.  Hackers are trying to get access to your card number or identity using scanners in stores or by breaking into servers holding capturing credit card transactions from physical stores and online transactions.  There are so many more transactions taking place with holiday shopping.  Stores are crowded and people are busy and pre-occupied.  All of these things make for happy hacking holidays as well.


Because we may not be keeping close track of our spending and accounts during the holiday season, we may not be as quick to notice trouble with our debit or credit cards.  Having a credit card number stolen is an annoyance but not much more.  Having your debit card stolen means that your bank account can get drained of funds and cause lots of other checks and bill payments to bounce.  Finding out that your electric bill, mortgage, or phone bill did not get paid right in the middle of the holidays is certainly not going to make for a Merry Christmas.  From a safety perspective, credit cards are definitely preferable to debit cards during the holidays. We just have to be a lot more diligent about budgeting.


Cash is also preferable to debit cards for holiday shopping, but then you also need to be vigilant about having your wallet or purse stolen.  Once cash is gone, it is gone for good. Still, if you are looking for the absolute best way to protect your identity, bank accounts, and budget this holiday season, cash is actually the safest choice. It’s funny that with so much technology to make our shopping easier, we resort to old-school style cash.


So, if you are headed out for some Black Friday shopping, take some cash with you. If you are staying home and shopping online, keep your debit card in your wallet and only use your credit card. Make good choices!