Before you head out the door for back-to-school supplies, start your shopping trip at home.
Make sure you take advantage of Missouri’s tax-free weekend.
And don’t rush. Maybe the summer isn’t the best time to buy everything.
These are just some of the tips Tracie Fobes of Raymore, the woman behind the Penny Pinchin’ Mom blog, offers to parents looking to cut costs.
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Fobes launched the website in 2009 after the recession set in and now draws more than 400,000 visitors a month. The stay-at-home mother of three says she spends about 30 hours a week searching for deals, posting on social media and writing for the blog. Her penny-pinching secrets have been featured in The New York Times and on Good Morning America.
Fobes understands the back-to-school shopping struggles. Here are seven of her best tips:
1. Check deals week to week.
Big stores change their deals all the time. It’s tempting to get all your shopping done in one day, but for the best deals, take the marathon approach. “Break up your shopping trips and take advantage of the sales that happen every single week,” Fobes says.
2. Shop at home.
When was the last time you cleaned out that bottom desk drawer? You may already have a lot of the items on your list. They might just be shoved in a dozen different places in your home. Once you check out what you already have, you can spend on only the things you need.
3. Go backpack shopping later in the fall.
Backpacks suffer tons of wear during a school year, and big stores know you’re in the market for one right now. Fobes starts her kids off with last year’s backpacks and buys new ones when they go on sale in September. Another tip: Buy one with a lifetime warranty. JanSport, L.L.Bean, Lands’ End and REI all will fix or replace damaged products.
4. Understand what Missouri’s tax-free weekend Aug. 4-6 actually entails.
The weekend doesn’t mean no taxes at all. Cities and counties may still charge a tax, even if the state does not. Keep in mind the exceptions, including accessories such as purses.
5. Use discounted gift cards.
This is one of Fobes’ favorite tips. Websites such as Raise.com sell $25 gift cards to the Children’s Place, Macy’s, Dick’s and other stores for $23. Earn savings before you even step inside the store.
6. Take advantage of specific store offers.
Some name brands never go on sale. So get your basics using coupons, and rack up savings points or earn rebates like Kohl’s Cash. Then return to buy those bigger ticket items at a much lower price.
7. You don’t have to buy all the clothes at once.
Fobes’ three kids are constantly growing in and out of clothes. So before every school year, she goes through all of last year’s clothes and figures out what’s needed. Then she determines what’s needed right now and what can wait for sales closer to Black Friday. The kids probably don’t need a new winter jacket in August, so wait to purchase that when it’s on sale.
Jacob Gedetsis: 816-234-4416, @jacobgedetsis
Missouri’s tax holiday
The discounts begin at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 4, and run through Aug. 6. These are the spending caps for the tax breaks:
▪ Clothing: $100.
▪ School supplies: $50.
▪ Computer software: $350.
▪ Computers and computer equipment: $1,500.
For more information, visit dor.mo.gov.