Dress for Success
Lesson No. 1: No teen likes to hear "clothing" and "budget" in the same sentence. Instead, tell your kid that this year she'll have a clothing allowance and can choose how it's spent (while you retain veto power, of course). Teach her that if she splurges on, say, pricey boots and a couple of pairs of skinny jeans, she'll have to shop the sale rack for everything else. Also, consider setting aside a percentage of the funds. That way she'll have money left over for any new must-have item.
Lesson No. 2: Show your teen how to stretch a dollar by taking advantage of discounts. Sign up for e-mail sale alerts from his favorite retailers. Together, visit a website like SaleLocator.com, which can track down back-to-school promotions in your area by store and even by specific item.
Lesson No. 3: Challenge her to save even more. Have your teen log onto her Facebook page or Twitter account to search for coupons or promotional codes, suggests Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert with CouponSherpa.com.
Lesson No. 4: January usually brings the best deals on electronics and computers, says Regina Novickis, a consumer spending expert with PromotionalCodes.com. Whenever possible, put off any tech upgrades until after the holidays. If you must buy a laptop or tablet now, Woroch suggests cutting costs by considering last year's model. Search for the lowest prices with websites like PriceGrabber.com and Google Shopping. You can also sign up to receive price-drop alerts by e-mail at FreePriceAlerts.com. Keep in mind that manufacturers—including brands such as Dell, HP and Apple—often offer student discounts.
Supplies and Demand
Lesson No. 5: Find online coupons by checking the back-to-school sections of websites like PromotionalCodes.com and DealNews.com. Increase your savings by looking for a discounted electronic gift card (typical savings can be up to 35%) on GiftcardRescue.com or PlasticJungle.com. And don't forget to search for codes at FreeShipping.org.
Lesson No. 6: Save on that reading list by downloading some classics for free from the Kindle Store—you can download a free Kindle app for any computer or device—or from your local library, says Woroch. Rent or buy used college textbooks from sites like Chegg.com and BookRenter.com.
Tips for Shopping Smarter
Savvy buyers follow these three golden rules:
- Catalog your needs. Make a list of what you are going to buy and stick to it, says Novickis. Fifty-seven percent of shoppers regularly spend more than they'd planned to.
- Forget loyalty. If you give in to your child's demand for a certain brand or store, you're likely to miss out on markdowns from competing merchants.
- Do your homework. Novickis says an hour spent comparison shopping online may save $100.
Originally published in the September 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.