Two goals for back-to-school shopping:
1. Saving money.
2. Bein’ all green ‘n’ stuff.
Sometimes these two goals are in conflict, as when the Super-Speshull Recycled Lunch System of Environmental Awesomeness is $kerjillion and the plain no-environmental-awesomeness one is $5. But other times these two goals work together like pencils and paper.
Tip the first: Reuse instead of purchase. If school shopping is fun for you like it’s fun for me, or if you have kids who want the fun of something new, this will be a challenge. But the best way to be all kissy-kissy to the environment is to use things until they are USED UP, and this saves money too. Sometimes stuff is so beat up by the end of a school year it has to be replaced, but sometimes it can go another year, or two, or three, which brings me to tip the second.
Tip the second: Buy stuff that will last. The first couple of school years, I bought $6 backpacks at Walmart, and they ripped halfway through the school year—when of course there were no more $6-back-to-school-special backpacks. Not only does this cost money when things need to be replaced more often, it means the things that wear out have to be thrown away. After that, I bought backpacks from Lands’ End or L.L. Bean, and those suckers just do not wear out. Those can be a lot more expensive, however, which brings me to tip the third.
Tip the third: Buy at the right time. In some cases, this will be in mid-to-late summer, when all the stores are making school supplies their loss leaders. Markers in August are a dollar; markers in January are three dollars. But in other cases, this will be right after school starts, when the stores are clearing out all the school supplies and fall clothing to make room for the Halloween stuff and winter clothing. And in other cases, it’ll be a few months after that. I buy the expensive Lands’ End and L.L. Bean backpacks when they’re marked way down, and I buy the kids’ clothes a year ahead when each season goes on clearance. Not only does this save money, it keeps the stores from throwing stuff away when it doesn’t sell. This sometimes means there aren’t as many choices as there would have been at full-price, which brings me to tip the fourth.
Tip the fourth: Don’t be so picky. “Not being picky” is why clearance shopping is so successful for me: I don’t mind choosing from what’s left. Sometimes I get what would have been my first choice anyway; other times I get something in another color/pattern and it’s totally fine. This saves me enough money that when I or the children DO have a strong preference I feel like I can go ahead and buy it before it’s on clearance: the Hello Kitty lunchbox, the Shaun White t-shirt. (Then I kick myself later when I see the same thing on clearance.)
Please add tip the fifth, tip the sixth, etc., if you have them.