Don't want to bust the budget shopping for back-to-school shopping? Then take some tips from a savvy mom of two boys, who shared with us her secrets for school shopping savings. Nedra McDaniel—author of the "Adventure Mom" travel and savings blog—took us shopping at Target.
1. Shop Multiple Stores
Her first secret? Much as she loves Target, she said don't shop just one store. "You want to be able to take advantage of the different deals happening at each store," McDaniel said.
2. Check Weekly Ads
That leads to secret No. 2: Staples will often have school items for just a penny, so check their ad to see what's on sale that week. Staples' deals change weekly.
3. Pick Your Stores Wisely
Her third tip: Choose a store based on what they offer the most of. She likes to shop Walmart for cheap prices on the basics, Target for discount cool fashions, and Old Navy, JCPenney, and online vendors for the best variety and price on school uniforms.
4. Mobile Apps Are Your Friend
To help you compare prices, McDaniel gave us tip No. 4: Use shopping apps. They can really be your friend this time of year. McDaniel said the apps ShopSavvy, Target's Cartwheel and Red Laser, among others, will steer you toward the lowest-priced supplies.
5. Beware Super Cheap Supplies
Tip No 5: As much as this might sound counterintuitive, McDaniel skips cheap backpacks (selling for under $20), because she said they might fall apart by Christmas. She looks for backpacks from L.L. Bean or Jansport that come with lifetime warranties. "Jansport has a higher price point, but they have a lifetime guarantee," she said. Target even has its own line of cheaper Jansport backpacks, and they still include the longer warranty. "So I suggest you spend a little bit more," she said. "But it's going to last the whole year." Ditto for super cheap no-name crayons and markers, when just 30 cents more might get you top quality Crayola.
6. Hold Off On Cold-Weather Gear
McDaniel's tip No. 6 is another that might sound strange at first. She said she resists the urge to buy all that fall and winter clothing right now, despite the great displays. Instead she shops the big sales on summer clothes right now, because "your kids can wear it for at least a couple of months," she said. For instance, she doesn't buy long pants until late September or October, when they go on sale. "I definitely suggest types of items they can wear for a while, for example $4 athletic shorts, that they're going to wear most of the year," McDaniel said.
7. Bring Older Kids With You
But that leads to tip No. 7: Don't buy clothing for older junior and high school kids if they're not with you in the store. She learned a lesson last year. "It's not a good deal if your kid won't wear it," McDaniel said. "So sometimes it's better to just bring them with you."
8. Stock Up On Laptops
Finally, McDaniel's tip No. 8: this is a great time to buy laptops or office supplies, even if you don't have school age kids. You will find great laptop sales right now, so you don't waste your money.