I know some of you are uber eager to gear up for back to school sales and shopping. I, on the other hand, am enjoying lazy mornings, lack-of-schedules, and soaking in all that’s summer!
However, I recognize there is a job to get done around here and I’ve gotten my you-know-what in gear to help you save your families big bucks on all-things Back to School. So today, let me help you get your game plan. (And if you’re not ready to deal with this all just yet, just bookmark this post for a later date. I won’t take offense. Promise.)
Back To School Price Points (FREE Download!)
Last night I asked my Facebook pals out there what would be helpful for planning back-to-school shopping. Several of you said “a stockup price list!” So this morning while the kids were in VBS, I scoured old posts from last year’s PNW Round Up. I focused my efforts on the following stores: Fred Meyer, Target, Office Depot, Staples, Office Max, and Walgreens. I wanted to include Rite Aid, I really did, but sorry. I felt their deals were overly complicated and in many cases, I couldn’t even determine prices (BOGO and 50% off sales are less than helpful for this sort of project).
For all my Excel pals out there, prepared to get geeky. I made a spreadsheet tracking the lowest prices on over 20 basic items at all the above stores, and noted when they went on sale. Using that data, I came up with what I’d like to call The Coupon Project Recommended Stock-up Price.
FREE for you to download:
These downloads are for personal use only. Feel free, particularly on the Excel one, to do what you want with it, but please don’t republish or anything fancy without my express permission first. (And all that jazz.) You may need to save to your computer before opening.
2011 Back to School Trends & 2012 Predictions
I’ve said for quite some time now that early July is the best time to watch for school supplies. After wading through actual sales, I need to retract that. So if some of you are concerned you’re late to the game, relax. I can assure you you are NOT. While it’s true there are some sales in swing (such as this week’s HOT Staples deals), most of the best deals I noticed last year actually took place in August. Surprise, surprise! Here are a few other trends I noticed.
Fred Meyer: Good for Extended Sales. If you have a Fred Meyer around, pay attention. What they offer is good low prices beyond a quick “one day” or even “one week” timeframe. This makes shopping there less of a rush. I am pleased to share that I will again be participating in a round-up with some fantastic, local bloggers, and will be reporting on Fred Meyer Back to School deals. Also watch for a special feature on finding the best back to school deals at Fred Meyer here at the blog in the next week or so. Stay tuned.
Deals that Play Peekabo. Missed those $0.25 Crayola crayons last week? No worries. Just because a hot deal popped up and went away, doesn’t mean it won’t pop up again the next month at another store, or even the same store. Bottom line, don’t boo hoo if you missed a deal. Chances are, there’ll be another one.
Target for freebies. Watch Target’s printable coupon section in particular for high-value coupons that can be applied to sales. We found several freebies last year, particularly on pens, and the freebies extended for several weeks. There were some issues on stock as the hot deals were being spotted, so you might have to contend with that. Heads up.
Consider brands. I noticed that generic brands (such as UP&UP for Target) or Roseart had lower overall prices. However, if you prefer the quality of say, Crayola, you might want to consider paying a few more pennies.
Watch for coupons. DO keep an eye out for any coupons! Last year we found several hot tearpad and printable coupons, along with some in inserts. Even if you’re not aware of a sale, I recommend you stash these away.
Tips for Successful Back to School Shopping
I hope you find the price sheet helpful, but I know such an amount of information can also be overwhelming. Here are a few quick tips to making sure you get good deals without losing your mind.
Focus on easy-to-do deals. Last year a couple office stores were offering $0.01 reams of copy paper, but the catch was that the deal was “after rebate.” Walgreens also offered reams of copy paper for $1.99 with in-ad coupon. Personally, I’m more drawn to Walgreens’ deal for the simplicity and low up-front price. (And also because I have a Walgreens just up the street!) Pay attention to deals that also require you purchase a minimum of $5 or $10 to get the penny deals.
Be cautious about chasing all the deals. It can be easy to want to chase free pens at Target and then cheap highlighters at Walgreens and then cheap index cards at Fred Meyer…. but please do account for the time, gas, and energy you’ll spend doing so! Focus on maybe one or two stores, and try to get ‘er done on a week when the deals are particularly strong so you’re not doing it all in piecemeal. You might refer back to my free downloads above to determine which store best suits your preferences and needs.
Pick up a few extras. If you have the ability to do so, pick up a few extras on the hot deals! You’ll be glad you did. You can stock your own office, have backups for your kids throughout the year, and help other kids in need go back to school. The crayons make excellent stocking stuffers or Operation Christmas Child gifts, for instance. Check with your local United Way chapter about where to donate unused school supplies.
What to Expect from The Coupon Project
I am in the process of finalizing the round-up plans with the other participating local bloggers. Once completed, please look for a simple button in my sidebar that you can check at any time for hot back to school deals! You can also count on me to provide detailed Fred Meyer back to school deals, including unadvertised finds and deals in apparel and accessories.
If you have any other questions, ideas, observations, or comments? Please share away!