If you haven't, make a list of what your children will need this school year, and before you hit the mall, see if you have any of the items at your home already. Chances are you already have binders, unused notebooks, and pencils left over from last year.
Next, see if there's any garage sales in your neighborhood. Garage sales can be an amazing place to find back-to-school supplies ranging from computers, calculators, to small items such as book bags, clothing, notebooks, etc., and you fill find the items at one-tenth the original prices.
Organize a swap meet with neighbors, family, and friends with children where each brings outgrown clothes or school items. Everyone will benefit from the swap meet.
Use coupon codes. Google your favorite retailers/brands and "coupon code" to get savings or free coupon websites such as FatWallet.com or Savings.com. Also check out what coupons deals your local stores have. There are still back to school deals going on in discount stores (Wal-mart, Target, Office Depot, etc.), so check them out.
When it comes to clothes, you're never too late. Kids grow fast, which means clothes that fit your kids in August might not fit in October. Get a few outfits with great deals on Labor Day, and plan to go shipping again on Columbus Day or even wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas season. Check out outlet malls and consider buying clothing off the final sale racks which your children can grow into.
For big items such as calculators, make full use of reviews available online to ensure the quality. Wize serves as an excellent place to look for the best produt in many of these categories or just to simply type in the specific product you have in mind to get reviews. For example, you can find the best calculators for students very easily!
Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids important lessons about budgeting, the difference between wants and needs, and finding great deals. Get the kids involved when budgeting. For example, younger kids can help cutting out coupon codes and older kids can help add/subtract prices.
Keep notes about this year's back to school shopping experience so you can refer to where to look for best deals, which thrift/discount shops to check out first, how to budget, etc.
For college students:
If you haven't bought big items such as laptops, calculators or electronics, be sure to research these products online and check for the best prices. Keep an eye on the clearance sections of online retail sites and look for free shipping.
Buy textbooks online (for example, Amazon.com or Half.com). Used textbooks especially come at much lower prices.
Good luck with your new school year and happy shopping!