Back to School Savings Have Started!

Retailers followed a tradition started in recent years and have started Back to School promotions immediately following the fourth of July. In a sluggish economy, retailers are eager to get as much of the back to school shopping pie as they can. In years’ past, shoppers have spent more than $55 billion (yes”¦ with a b) in a single back to school shopping season. It’s a huge event for retailers – and a huge opportunity for great savings for shoppers.

There’s no need to wait to start your shopping. Even if you don’t have the official supply list for your child, sales offered from competing retailers are opening up some great savings for school and office supplies. You can find generic lists online and we’ve collected a list of the most common supplies needed for elementary, middle school, and high school students. While “˜the list’ is good way to ensure you don’t miss anything, it is by no means necessary to restrict what you should buy when you can collect as many bargains as are available.

We’ve been indexing back to school supplies at all three major office stores (in addition to big box retailers, drug stores, and grocery chains) on our website, ““ so you can easily track and compare the best deals on calculators, scissors, reams of paper, crayons, and dozens more items for school, office, and home. We’re also watching and reporting all the best online deals ““ not available at your local brick and mortar store. I’ll also make a special effort to share some of these don’t miss back to school deals in our weekly column.

There are two types of families who will spend, on average, substantially different amounts of money getting the kids ready for school. Sadly, most families get the list of supplies needed and buy bulk of these items at one store a week or two before school starts. This is a very expensive way to stock up for school.

When it comes to outfitting your kids and home office, I always teach that families to go “cherry picking” this time of year. I want you to grab all the loss-leaders at the major retailers each week and make a weekly plan of it. A loss leader is a product marked far below retail that is designed to get you into the store and to buy all your school supplies from that single retailer, such as notebooks for five cents, reams of paper for a quarter, boxes of crayons for a penny. It’s a strategy that will ultimately save you a lot of money.

Many people consider their time too valuable to split it among several stores over several weeks. The enlightened shopper knows the time invested in buying your back-to-school items throughout July and August can earn them $25 an hour or more! That’s a great hourly wage that you can earn for your family in these final summer months!

Don’t be shy about not bothering with anything that isn’t a loss leader. Buy the allowable quantity if you can and stick to your plan. People who miss the boat and end up buying supplies the week or two before school will pay 2 to 3 times what they could have paid weeks earlier. With the huge lists of supplies many schools require students to provide, this can put a dent in families’ budgets. After all our summer fun, this list can create stress to our budgets.

If you spend an extra hour popping into a few extra retailers each week, you’ll have far more than you need by the time school starts. Simply save the rest for next school year ““ or plan on using these supplies in your home throughout the year. You’ll avoid that last-minute run during the school year for that special item needed for a big project. You can also avoid buying office supplies at any other time of the year.

Finally, please consider donating what you won’t use to any number of local charities. The need is great and backpack drives will be aplenty. As I’ve started purchasing items the past couple weeks, I know full well that we won’t need that particular item. I do know, however, that someone, somewhere does.

The easiest way to cut your grocery bill in half is through using manufacturers coupons combined with the best sales at local stores. Normally, this takes a lot of work to create a winning shopping list for your family. Each week, combines over 2,000 products on sale at local grocery and drug stores with their enormous database of manufacturer coupons ““ which are found in Sunday’s Grand Rapids Press and throughout the Internet. This combination results in access to over 300 products each week for 50% off or better. Here are a few examples of deals that are available until Saturday at midnight. Please look in Tuesday’s Grand Rapids Press each week for tips on how you can easily start cutting your grocery bill!