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Piggy bank swells in pride at back to school savings

If you're a parent in Texas or Oklahoma, you're probably already in full preparation-mode for the upcoming school year. By now, the school district has sent out its list of supplies, and you're quietly wondering how you'll possibly afford it all and have any money left over.

Trust us -- starting the school year off right is totally doable. So, whether you're a back-to-school expert or a first-timer, check out these 15 tips on saving money at the start of this school year!

1. Trade or Swap

Post on social media or check with your local community groups to find a few other moms and dads with kids the same age as yours, or just a few years older. There's a great chance they'll have loads of old supplies and maybe even clothes or backpacks they'd like to trade for yours.

Also, remember to ask them if they have any old textbooks -- the money you'll save on books will go far toward buying the rest of the necessary supplies your kids need!

2. Check Your Home

When school season hits, everybody rushes out to local big box stores and grocery stores to raid the shelves for school supplies without realizing one thing: they already have a lot of supplies lying around their houses.

Go through every drawer and look under every couch cushion if you have to. Odds are you'll find a sizeable selection of supplies for your kids to start their year off with.

3. Find Price-Match Stores

Many stores like Target, Best Buy, and Staples offer to match the prices you find online. Any time you come across an item your kids need, pull out your phone and check Amazon or Walmart.com to see if there's a better deal out there. The stores will then honor their guarantee by charging you the discounted price!

4. Splurge... When Necessary

When you go out to get the really big stuff like backpacks, make sure you look for quality. A well-made backpack might last for years where a cheaply made one may only last a semester.

The only other supplies you'd be wise to spend extra on are reusables like plastic folders, binders, and dividers. There are plenty of these types of supplies out there made from the cheapest possible materials that will be too worn by the end of the school year for reuse. If you spend a little extra on these, you might get good use out of them for years to come.

5. Find Books Online

If your kids' school makes you purchase textbooks, try and find them online. Not only is there a better chance of finding a great price, you'll also get around the issue of local bookstores running out of copies.

And if you or your kids are required to read one of the hundreds of works of classic literature popular among English teachers, find them online for free on websites like Gutenberg.org.

6. Use Online Community Sales Pages

Places like Facebook's online marketplace and Craigslist often have great deals on school supplies posted by other parents. If you scroll through these each day leading up to and through the beginning of the school year, you can find tons of items your kids need at cheap prices.

And remember, you can also become a great salesman yourself by selling off last year's supplies or other stuff you don't need around your home. With the extra cash, you can afford to keep your kids fully stocked on supplies.

7. Don't Go All-In

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to knock every item off the list at once. Don't do this.

Instead, spread out your purchases across multiple days. Look out for days that have great deals or those that have the smallest crowds of other parents buying supplies. Also, if you can figure out which items aren't needed Day One, you can buy them a few weeks into the school year at discounted prices.

8. Prepare for Next Year

Once the school year really kicks off and prices on supplies come down, don't forget all about it until next year. Instead, keep your eye out for great deals on supplies you can store away in a closet and surprise yourself with after this school year ends.

9. Avoid Trendy Purchases

One way to stock up on the right items for the following year is to avoid buying anything tied to trends. For instance, if you stow folders with characters from this summer's most popular superhero movie in your closet, your child likely won't want anything to do with those supplies the following year. They will seem dated. Buy classic designs or plain styles to ensure your supplies remain desirable. 

10. Watch the Sales

One of our favorite quick tips for back to school savings is to keep an eye on weekly circulars from your favorite stores. Nearly every retailer that sells school supplies puts them on sale in July or August. Keep a list of the supplies you need on your phone to take advantage of deals when you happen to be at the store. You may see, for example, that your child needs colored pencils on sale this week at Store A for $2, but a circular for Store B promises the pencils next week for $1. 

10. Try Different Stores

Think outside the box for your school supplies, and go to different places to buy them. You may find better prices on scissors at a thrift store than at a retailer. Dollar stores offer great bargains on certain items, while buying in bulk will pay off at membership-based stores for other items. 

11. Crowdsource Your Purchases

One often-overlooked source for back to school shopping tips is social media. Ask other parents to weigh in on where they have found the best prices on school supplies. People are always eager to share their knowledge, and they may suggest places you might not think of trying. Plus, you can share your insights on pricing, too, after all the research you have done. 

12. Use the Right Apps

You can find apps that make comparison shopping a breeze. Use them to scan the barcode on an item you plan to buy and see how much it retails for online and at other stores. 

13. Skip the Name Brands

There are so many school supply items you can purchase for much cheaper when you buy the generic version. Most of them work just as well as the original or name brand. Read reviews online so you know what is worth buying generic. 

14. Combine Coupons and In-Store Deals

Many retailers offer coupons to lure customers into the store, but not all customers know about or seek out these deals. You will save money when you only shop at stores that offer coupons. Combine the coupons with sales to get the best price, especially on bigger-ticket items such as electronics. 

15. Ask About Supplies Provided by the School

Back to school savings requires some creative thinking. Do you have to buy everything on the list, or can your child borrow some items from the school? Sometimes an item is merely a suggestion and not a requirement, such as a fancy graphing calculator or a laptop. Ask a teacher whether the school loans out these things. 

Apply For a Personal Loan Online

The best way to make sure your kids succeed this year is to give them all the tools they need for success while practicing our tips for back to school shopping. And if you're a Texas or Oklahoma parent who needs a little help making ends meet during the beginning of the school year, remember that Atlas Credit is here to help you afford to give your kids those tools with a quick and easy personal loan. Apply online or in store for a loan of up to $1,400 on a 5 to 12-month repayment plan!

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