I can see it now — the crowds, the pushing, the shoving, and all around wide-eyed panic. No, I’m not talking about a clearance sale at your favorite store, I’m talking about the “not-so-fun” bits that go along with back to school shopping. As summertime winds down and the clock inches ever closer to my prodigies return to lockers and school bells, I find myself grinding my teeth at the blood-spilling havoc of crawling over six-year-olds in a quest to obtain notebooks and pencils. Thankfully, I have had a lot of practice in this gladiatorial arena and I have figured out a way to not only avoid the roaring crowds but save a heck of a lot of money too.
Online Shopping — For The Win
I would rather shop online any day of the week, and twice on Sunday, than traipse around my local big box store in search of the very last Hello Kitty backpack or single remaining box of red pencils. In fact, I would rather gouge my own eyes out with a spork, run them through a cheese grater and use lemon juice for eye drops than deal with that nonsense. This is probably why I opt to get my back-to-school goodies online as opposed to offline. Think it’s more expensive to shop on the web? That is where you would be wrong. Budget shopping savvy is my specialty.
I Am All About the Rebates
By rebate, I don’t mean mail-in rebates; I rarely mess with those. For back to school shopping, I use the two web sites: E-bates and Fat Wallet. The concept is simple; create a free account, logon, search for your favorite merchants and then comparison shop from the comfort of your couch. These websites offer up links to the same stores I’d be running around at anyway in person, minus the running around part. The difference is that when I shop smarter, I get cash back, coupons and double benefits without ever having to pick up a pair of scissors or deal with crowds, traffic and temper tantrums from spawn not my own.
You Still Need a Budget
I do a dry run for the items on the kids back to school list and draft a quickie spreadsheet for each, outlining cost projections. I make sure that I can afford everything on the list, and there ‘”in a nutshell'”is my budget. As the kids have gotten older, they participate in the process too. No matter how you do it, make a budget for back to school.
I Wait for Tax-Free Weekend
In South Texas, right around the time school starts, we are blessed with the benefit of tax-free weekend. For three days, every purchase we make is sales tax free. Major online retailers offer the same benefits when I shop with them for back-to-school during tax-free weekend, saving me an additional 8.25 percent off my purchases.
Cheap, cheap and cheaper
Now for the nitty gritty of my master plan. When I’m ready to get the school shopping done, I log on to my rebates websites, and look for the store offering the largest percentage of rebate incentive. The rebates range from 4 to 12 percent, on average, and once I find the “best deal” I knock out the shopping in the blink of an eye. Sitting by my trusty computer, school shopping list and budget in hand, I get everything done in about 20 minutes, and all done under budget. Once everything is ordered, I get a rebate from the website, direct to my PayPal account.
How much do you save?
I can tell you that by doing my back to school shopping this way for the past three years, I have saved in average of $230 when compared to going to shopping in store, each year. In fact, I added up all of my savings and over 3 years, I saved $864; not too shabby. I get everything I need on the lists shipped to my door, ready to be packaged and assembled in bags and backpacks before my offspring go back to school. I shop smart, save a bundle and fatten my wallet all at the same time.
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