8 ways to stretch your back-to-school dollar


Back-to-school shopping
because-I-said-so-REDThe last few weeks before school starts can be a spendy time of year. But if you want to earn an “A” in savings, here are a few tricks you won’t find in a textbook.

UtahValley360.com talked to three popular Utah bloggers to get their advice on back-to-school savings. Janica Ellsworth is a 29-year-old mother of three and owner of the blog UtahDealDiva.com. Kimberly Corrigan is a 28-year-old mother of two and owner of the blog UtahValleyMoms.com. Rachel Averett is a 33-year-old mother of three and co-author and founder of the blog ProvoSavers. Here, they share how to pinch your pennies when buying school items.


1. Make a budget for school clothes — and stick to it.

“Don’t let ‘wants’ become ‘needs’,” said Ellsworth. To save money, Ellsworth recommends shopping for clearance items and at thrift stores. You can also find name-brand clothing at places like Ross and T.J. Maxx, she said.

“When you go to the store with a list and a budget, it will be harder to purchase those impulse buys and the ‘latest and greatest’ items,” added Corrigan.

2. Host a “clothes swap” in with neighbors, family or friends.

“A lot of us have piles of unwanted or unused clothes,” said Ellsworth. Put those gently used items to good use by trading them at a clothing swap. This can be particularly useful for kids who wear school uniforms.

3. Sign up for emails from your favorite stores to find the best deals.

If there is a store you love to shop at, sign up for its email list to receive deals and coupons. Corrigan said signing up for store emails helped her buy uniform items for as low as $3.

4. Shop summer clearance and hold out for fall clothes.

Buy your child a few clearance summer outfits to wear the first week of school, but hold out on fall items. Fall clothes are too hot to wear the first few months of school anyway, Averett said. By September and October, fall clothing will be marked down to lower prices.

School Supplies

5. Shop mid-July to mid-August for school supplies.

“The best back-to-school supply sales happen mid-July to mid-August,” said Ellsworth. Although you may not have an entire school supply list, you can ask around and stock up on the staples you know you’ll need such as pencils and notebooks.

Ellsworth recommends shopping at stores that will price match like Target or Walmart so that you don’t have run from store to store. Target price matches at its customer service desk, she said, while Walmart will price match at the register. She said you can check this “stockpile price list” from PassionForSavings.com  to see if what’s listed at your favorite store is a good deal.

6. Buy supplies in bulk and split the cost.

“Wholesale stores like Costco and Sam’s Club can offer great deals, but you might not need 100 pens,” Corrigan said. If you don’t want to hold on to extra items for future use, see if friends or family might want to split some of the items with you.

7. Repurpose or revamp old school supplies to make them new again.

“Just because it is a new school year doesn’t mean your kids have to have NEW of everything,” said Ellsworth. “There are about a million things you can do with the cute duct tape they have these days. You can make pencil holders, crayon boxes and old binders look good again.”

Before you buy anything, be it clothing or supplies, Averett recommends going through your home to see what you already have. “I can’t even count how many times I was about to buy things and found I already had what I needed in my house,” she said.


8. Use store AND manufacturer coupons to save on essentials for school lunches.

School essentials — think everything from juice boxes to snacks and fruit cups — go on sale at the end of August and the first part of September, said Ellsworth. “You can get school lunch essentials for pennies on the dollar if you watch the sales and use coupons on top of sales,” she said. She added that Target and Smith’s Food & Drug have great back-to-school food sales. Target also offers printable store coupons on its site, which can be used together with manufacturer coupons for maximum savings.


Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

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