Money & Career

Affordable back-to-school shopping tips

Affordable back-to-school shopping tips

Photography by © Image by: Photography by © Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

Affordable back-to-school shopping tips

Canadians with children in preschool through Grade 12 will spend about $324 on supplies during the back-to-school season, according to a Scotiabank survey conducted by Harris/Decima. But a little creativity mixed with common sense can slash your spending.

Save on supplies
Cathie Mostowyk, who runs, a site that features deals from retailers in the Toronto area, says it pays to be on the lookout for deals year-round. Her site lists warehouse sales offering savings of up to 70 percent at stores such as Scholar’s Choice and Mastermind Toys. She also suggests searching the web to track loss leaders at superstores. “Do your homework, make a list and pick up the best deals at several stores at one time,” says Mostowyk.

Sarah Deveau, a Calgary mother and the author of Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting (Last Impression, 2010), keeps a closet shelf stocked with supplies. “I once picked up a $4 pack of Crayola crayons for just 25 cents in October once the back-to-school hoopla had passed.”

Trim techie toys
Instead of forking over top dollar for new electronics, check out chains such as EB Games and Computer Trends that sell used and refurbished electronics that come with warranties and are discounted by 25 to 60 percent. If you prefer to buy new, check out to find the best prices on everything from laptops to printers.

“The discussion board at this site is where the supershoppers talk about where to get the best price on everything,” says Deveau. Mostowyk warns against overspending on electronics, because technology changes so rapidly. You don’t need to splurge for all the bells and whistles if all your child needs to do is send emails and write essays.

Cut clothing costs
National used-clothing chains and local consignment shops allow you to save up to 80 percent off gently worn clothes. Save even more by reselling your gently used name-brand items back to the store.

Last year, when my daughter started Grade 9, she wanted the de rigueur pair of Ugg boots to kick off her high school career, but I balked at the $200 price. (I couldn’t help but recall my own entry into high school some 30 years earlier, when all I needed was a new pair of Levi’s.) But my daughter was determined. She went online and found a local outlet of a national brand-name consignment chain, where she scored a $25 pair of gently used Uggs. She was thrilled, and I saved myself $175.

Hamilton mom Nancy Wilson says she also uses the Internet to help her save. “It really pays to check out retailers’ websites to look for coupons, to ‘like’ their Facebook pages to get discounts, and to sign up to receive information on deals via email.”

This story was originally titled "Balanced Books" in the September 2012 issue.

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Money & Career

Affordable back-to-school shopping tips