It’s that time of year again, where the economy picks up because families across the nation are stocking up on pencils, protractors and pants. Also, merchants are offering all sorts of deals to lure customers in even more.
Despite what they say, stores aren’t being altruistic with their sales and specials, they’re trying to make an extra buck, any buck. If you go shopping, make it work to your financial advantage.
In Illinois this year, the state sales tax was suspended for 10 days on most school supplies and clothing items under $100. Logan’s in preschool, so no protractors for him, but I stocked up on clothes.
It’s easy to overspend when retailers tout “BIG SAVINGS!” In fact, my hubby feels that sales are a bad gimmick to make people spend more money than they intended. I believe there’s a way to enjoy the sales without hurting the pocketbook.
- Hatch a shopping plan and follow it. This weekend, I didn’t want to shop simply to shop, so I treated it like a grocery store trip, making a list of what he needed in the coming months. He’s fine for shorts and all things warm-weather related, which is why my aim was fall and winter gear.
- Hit the store early. There’s a competitive nature among some of us that comes out when shopping. You see an item in someone else’s cart and it nonsensically becomes a must-have. If you go early, you avoid the crowd that can bring out the hunter inside, it’s easier to make better buying decisions because the displays aren’t disheveled and it’ll be a faster shopping trip with less people, available dressing rooms and shorter lines. (You know you’re a mom when you hit Kohl‘s at 7:30 a.m.)
- Go alone. No kids equals less distraction, making it easier to stick to your plan. This weekend I couldn’t do that, but it worked out well since we got there early and for entertainment brought everything a fire department could need: ladder trucks, a water truck, ambulance, apple juice.
When checking out, the sweet, plump grandma behind the counter asked me if I found everything OK because there were a lot of summer clothes on clearance. After all, the counter was filled with jeans, long-sleeved shirts and fleece PJs. I explained to her my plan (which also accounted for unpredictable growth spurts) so that now all I need is a few sweaters and then for Christmas we can ask the grandparents for summer clothes. This would, effectively, make sure we had the basics covered for the next several months. She paused. “That’s a good idea, never thought of it that way.”
I know many moms who shop a season ahead, but I also know many moms who bemoan that there’s clothes in the closet that still have tags on them. The key to making the most out of back-to-school sales is a strategic plan: develop one and execute it. That way you’re taking advantage of the retailers more than they’re taking advantage of you.