UNITED STATES—It seemed like just a month ago, kids were just getting out of school, and with the snap of a finger, its already the second week in August. Yeah, you know what that means? School is right around the corner America and there are some major dos and don’ts when it comes to school supplies. If you enter many retailers, you’ll already see the school section in full force. I will make the argument that things have significantly shifted since I was in elementary, middle and high school.

I’ve noticed that the prices of school supplies have significantly dropped and that is important in today’s economy. First, you do want to have an idea of what items your kids will need not ONLY for the first day of class, but throughout the rest of the year. Find a way to get a list of all the school supplies that will be needed from your child’s school. Don’t run into creating a situation where you are spending more money as the school year progresses when you don’t have to. This is important because the supplies that are on sale now will NOT be on sale come November, December, January, February, etc.

Second, if you see good deals on items right now and you have the money to purchase those items why not purchase them. I mean if you can get 10 notebooks for $1.00 it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what you need to do. You can spend $10 and purchase enough notebooks to last your kid(s) for the entire school year. The same applies for pens, pencils, folders and loose leaf paper. These items are at some of the best rates right now.

For reasons I cannot fathom, people tend to always wait until the last minute, like the week of school or just a day before school starts and spends double if not triple compared to what they would have originally spent if they started shopping a bit earlier. Let’s be honest the bulk of school shopping comes for those who are in elementary and middle school. That’s where the biggest strike to your wallet will take place. As you enter high school, the cost significantly drops if you ask me.

The only thing teens really needs are pens, pencils, notebooks and a backpack. With college, that is indeed another tale, especially for freshman. Why? We tend to overbuy things that sometimes we don’t really need or we suspect we need, but we actually don’t. I mean I’ve already picked up a few items for my niece who is headed back to Michigan State University. Jeez, I recall my first year at the university and the ton of things that floated through my mind: I need this I need that, etc.

Yes, I needed a fridge, a microwave, pillows, towels, wash clothes, a comforter, sheets, school supplies, cups, dishes, cutlery, food, slippers, hangers, the list goes on and on. There is a lot of stuff you need as a freshman in college. A parent can easily spend $500, and that would not come close to scratching the surface of what is needed. Why? You have to purchase books and that is another $500-$1000 depending on the course load that you have.

Some of you might be saying, really? Books for a $1k, is a very strong possibility depending on the classes that you take. I’ve easily had semesters where books ranged close to $600. Why? One class consisted of books that cost over $200 alone. Your freshman year you are naïve and don’t know what is going on, but as you wise up, you learn there are ways to get around your things, especially how to save a ton of money when it comes to buying books. That will be the biggest saver of expenses when it comes to college.

Third, the best way to save money is to utilize coupons, discounts and check the flyers. You want to compare prices on big ticket items for your college student like microwaves, fridges, laptops, a TV and so many other electronics that can take a massive hit on the wallet. The same goes for the basic school supplies, Office Max is a great place to check, as well as Meijer, Target, Walmart, Staples and Office Depot. Right now is a crucial time to start shopping for those items as you will get them at a major discount and you can purchase enough if you really have the money for the next 2-3 school years, which means your wallet doesn’t take a massive hit. Be smart, think and evaluate the situation at hand because school supplies should not be stressful.

Written By Kelsey Thomas