The first day of school is just around the corner which means families are in the midst of back-to-school shopping. But does the grand total make you feel the need to refinance your home? Being the mom of five young children and the wife of a graduate student, I know a thing or two about living on a budget and stretching our money so I’m sharing some of my favorite ways to save a little green this back-to-school season.
A simple way to save on clothes is to buy secondhand. Thrift stores such as the Salvation Army Thrift Store (1621 S. State St.) and the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop (2280 S. Industrial) offer a constantly changing variety of clothing and other items. Bringing the kids with you is a good idea because used clothing, having already shrunk, may not fit the same as new, and thrift stores tend to have a more stringent return policy.
Local children’s resale stores such as Once Upon a Child (4559 Washtenaw Ave.) and Grow With Me (2521 Jackson Ave.) offer a variety of inspected used clothing, shoes and gear.
If your child wears uniforms, call your school to check for a uniform exchange school or consider setting up such a swap. Also look for uniform “lots” on eBay or Craigslist. Try a simple search such as “girl school uniform size 8 lot.”
If your student is playing an instrument you have several options. Borrow one from the school, rent one from a local shop or buy one. Those in the Ann Arbor Public School system can usually get an instrument on loan from the band or orchestra conductor. If you choose to buy one, consider the level of your child’s intent and the leading manufacturers for the instrument. Visit a local store such as Shar Music (2465 S. Industrial Hwy.) for stringed instruments or Oz’s Music (1920 Packard ) to discuss your options. Both stores offer programs that will apply some of your monthly rental money towards buying the instrument if you later decide to purchase.
To save money on sporting gear consider buying used. Searching Craigslist, garage sales and Play it Again Sports are all local options. When buying used equipment it’s always a good idea to inspect it closely. Check that seams are intact, no rust is evident on metal pieces and that all Velcro, straps and closures function correctly. Some items are best bought new such as helmets, mouthguards, and hockey sticks.
Budding artists need supplies! Thinking outside the box to find art materials may actually entail thinking inside the box– The Scrap Box (581 State Cir.) where you can pick up recycled items for collages, mosaics and science projects. Also check out sales at local big box stores and stock up on supplies such as glue, pencils and crayons during sales.
As you receive a supply list from your child’s teacher or school, the best way to not break the bank is to set a budget and know exactly what you’re looking for before you begin walking store aisles. Keep in mind that buying some things in bulk, such as disinfectant wipes, tissues and hand sanitizer, will give you enough to send some to school and keep some on hand at home.
Follow these tips and you’ll be sure to score an A-plus on your back to school bargain shopping exam!