When it comes to school, costs are rising across the board. Though tuition hikes get most of the publicity, additional expenses associated with school can add up as well, and school supplies are no exception.
Though it was once easy to send kids off to school with a pencil case, a couple of notebooks and a few other accessories, today's students live in a digital world, and their teachers often rely on technology to supplement lesson plans. As a result, the cost of school supplies is higher than ever before, and parents are left looking for ways to give kids the tools they need without breaking the bank. To do just that, consider the following tips.
* Sign up for coupons on retailer Web sites. When consumers purchase a product online, prior to finalizing the purchase many online retailers ask consumers to check a box if they would like to receive e-mail newsletters and coupons. Parents who sign up for such newsletters and coupons can save substantial amounts of money and might even be privy to special sales not available to the general public. In some cases, it's not even necessary to make a purchase to receive the newsletters and coupons. Shoppers simply visit the Web site of their favorite online retailers and sign up to be notified of any deals or sales.
* Coordinate with teachers ahead of time. Parents should consult their child's teacher before school begins and throughout the year to determine if there are any special projects or reports coming up that require certain supplies. For instance, kids might need costly graphing calculators next semester. If parents are given advance notice, they can shop around to get the best deal. Talk to local school officials to see if it's possible to make a list of school supplies available at the end of the year instead of at the very beginning. If so, this gives parents several months to shop around for the best deals.
* Do your own homework. Parents of college-bound kids might think an e-reader would make the ideal gift, saving kids the trouble of lugging all those books around campus. However, parents should do their homework before making any such purchases. That's because not all textbooks are available as e-books, and kids might end up having to buy hard copies of their textbooks anyway. Before kids head off to college, examine their first semester schedule and then look online for each class' corresponding syllabus. If most of their required textbooks are available as e-books, then an e-reader might make a great gift. If not, think of something else.
* Don't make the bottom line the determining factor. Whether a student is in grade school, high school or college, his or her school supplies tend to undergo more than their fair share of wear and tear. So parents looking to save on school supplies should consider that when shopping. Though the less expensive backpack might seem more affordable, make sure it can withstand the test of time and all the wear and tear that comes with being a student's backpack. If not, it will likely need to be replaced before the school year is out, which can end up costing more money in the long run.
* Recycle school supplies. School supplies can be recycled. At the end of each semester or school year, perform an inventory of existing school supplies. If last semester's notebooks were hardly used, there's no need to buy new ones for the new semester. Similarly, parents who have a couple of students in their household can embrace hand-me-down school supplies just like they do with clothes. If one child finishes the school year but didn't quite use up all of their supplies, save those supplies for the day when their younger siblings end up in the same class.