Don't Shop Too Soon
"I've learned not to buy clothing before school starts. My 8-year-old daughter likes to wear only trendy clothes, so I wait until we see what the other girls are wearing, and then we go shopping. By then, everything's usually on sale." Bonnie Sharpe, Alpharetta, Ga.
Make a Bid
"I've found that eBay is great for buying clothes, shoes, and jackets. It's essentially an international yard sale. I was skeptical at first, but I've found that many parents auction off their kids' best clothing -- probably only worn once for a special occasion -- at ridiculously low prices." Suzanne T. Jackson, Hickory, N.C.
Stick to the List
"As a third-grade teacher, I have always been amazed at how many parents buy things that are not on the school's supply list for their child's grade. It's simply a waste of money to purchase unlisted items, because your child will probably never need to use them." Carie Laster, Nashville, Tenn.
"I save by shopping in bulk at warehouse stores. They have great deals on the foods and snack items I use for my daughter's lunches, and I can get bargains on school supplies too." Rochelle Stern, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Make It Homemade
"Prepackaged items such as juice boxes and mini pudding packs are very pricey. I buy plastic food and beverage holders (with built-in straws). Then I make fruit punch, soups, sandwiches, and homemade pudding or cookies to put in these inexpensive, reusable containers." Jennifer Dasilva, Toronto, Ont., Canada
Jazz Up Adult Supplies
"My kids raid my home-office stash. For each child, we personalize my inexpensive plain, white binders by printing out digital photo collages or digital kid-art and inserting the page into the plastic outer cover. My kids get a kick out of changing the cover seasonally." Rena Buchanan, Redondo Beach, Calif.
Stock Up During Special Sales
"I do our back-to-school shopping during our state's tax-free weekend, in August. The stores tend to have huge sales that weekend as well. Last year, jeans and khaki pants at the Gap were $10 off, and I bought three pairs for my 6-year-old and saved more than $30." Karen Hardin, Cedar Park, Tex.
Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Parents magazine.