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Coupons 101: Extreme Savings for Back to School

by Mark on July 8, 2012

For many of you it might seem like summer has barely started and that it is FAR too early to start thinking about back-to-school shopping already.  Others of you may think that because you don’t have kids in school, back-to-school shopping simply doesn’t apply.

Well guess what?

Not only is it time for parents to start paying attention to the back-to-school sales that are just starting in order to grab the best deals for your kids, it is time for everyone else to take advantage of the specials on paper, office, & craft supplies that only come out this time of year.

With some forethought, patience, & persistence it is possible to get almost everything you need for just a fraction of what you would’ve normally paid, and I’ve got some great tips to help you maximize your savings this year:

1. Make your list early

This step is more critical for parents of school-age kids, but everyone can benefit from planning ahead.  Figure out exactly what you are going to need for each kid in terms of clothing, school supplies, backpacks, etc.  If you don’t yet have a school supply list, you may be able to look it up on your child’s school website.  Go through your child’s wardrobe & determine which items will make it through another year and which need to be replaced.

If you wait to do this until the week before school starts, you will find yourself forced to buy things, regardless of price.  Planning ahead will save big bucks!

2. Set a budget

Figure out how much you can afford (or want) to spend on BTS items, then commit to it!  Be up front with your older kids about what that budget is, and let them share some of the responsibility for sticking to it.

3. Pay attention to the sales each week

Starting this week, the three big office supply stores–Staples, Office Depot, & Office Max–along with the big box stores–Target &Walmart–and even the drugstores will be running back-to-school promotions each week.  To get a weekly list of the top school supply deals & where to find them, be sure to check out our School Supply Round-Up.

There will often be quite a few “loss leaders”–super specials on a few items, intended to get you in the door.  This is where planning ahead will help you!  Pluck out the top deals at each store, make your rounds, & then begin checking items off your list.  Be sure to stock up on super cheap items like $0.25 crayons or $0.01 notebooks!

4.) Take advantage of the rebates

You will be able to get a lot of items for absolutely free or almost-free after rebates or office store rewards.  I am usually able to stock up on enough free or close-to-free (after rebate) printer paper and photo paper to last me the rest of the year.  In the past, I have also ended up with a free stapler, electric pencil sharpener, markers, cardstock,  several great software programs, & more.

My favorite office store to shop at is definitely Staples because they give cash rebates rather than store rewards.  Here is a video I made last year of back-to-school shopping at Staples:

But a word of warning:  In order to save, you must SUBMIT THE REBATE!  The stores count on the fact that many people just won’t bother.  Take the time to fill out the rebate form (Staples Easy Rebates are my favorite–they only take a few minutes to submit online!) as soon as you get home, and then wait for the money to start rolling back in.

5.) Get creative

Summer is a great time to start looking for clothing deals as well.  A lot of spring and summer clothes can function throughout the year, especially for those of us here in Florida.  Shop the summer clearance sales for some great bargains, then wait until late September or October to stock up on clearance-priced fall and winter  clothing.

If you need to purchase school uniforms, look for online bargains.  Old Navy and Kohl’s both have some really great prices on uniforms and run a lot of promotions.  Be sure to shop through Ebates for cash back on your purchases! Consignment shops & thrift stores offer another option, and by shopping early you’ll be able to grab the best stuff first!

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Ultimately, back-to-school shopping is a lot like grocery shopping:  the more you plan, the more you’ll save.  By breaking down the process and doing a little each week, you’ll be amazed at how much you can save this season!

I’m sure many of you have your own great tips as well!  How do you save on back-to-school shopping?  Where are your favorite places to score a bargain?

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