Cost-cutting measures in education programs in Florida are pushing parents to search for more savings in local stores for school supplies.
For Tara Bieling, a parent of two children entering Lake Park Elementary School and Gulfview Middle School this fall, she says bargain hunting is the secret of her frugal saving habits each year.
“We often look for bargains, and we head to Old Navy in the mall, and compare prices around town,” she says.
Bieling’s friend, Mary Ely, of North Naples, says shopping for her three children is a cerebral affair with rising prices of clothing and school supplies.
“Thank God for Walmart. I spend $300 per child, and that is including bare bones shopping for socks, shoes and underwear. We try to make items last all year with washing and folding clothing carefully,” she said.
Budget cuts have especially been seen in voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) education for 4-year-olds attending the statewide free program. Fiscal cuts in VPK funding equal a 15 percent reduction in spending per child, which leaves many local preschool providers asking parents for donations of supplies to make up for the shortfall.
It leaves many VPK providers constantly challenged in providing high-quality education to keep 4-year-olds on a direct path to starting kindergarten with necessary basic skills to succeed in the classroom.
Like many parents feeling the constant pinch of the economy, Lisa Augano, a teacher at Small World Early Learning Center, says her philosophy is simpler when it comes to saving money in hunting for classroom essentials for her daughter.
“I kind of wing it when it comes to shopping. I do the best I can, and I don’t have a strategy this year,” Augano said.
Some tips to get the most bang for your back-to-school buck are:
• Try to shop as early as possible and school lists can be found on your school’s website, which can be found by accessing the district website first at www.collier.k12.fl.us.
• Look for back-to-school promotions in stores, Internet sites, newspapers, and even with smart phone applications.
• Set a budget with your list before you shop. Shopping with a list can eliminate those extra spontaneous items a child requests, but are not required by schools.
• Shopping for items at second-hand stores also reduces costs. This especially works for school uniforms. Better yet, start a “uniform swap” with parents in your community to offset uniform costs.
• Many children want a specific name brand of clothing, and asking an older child to pitch in extra costs from an allowance may deter special requests.
• Sometimes waiting until two weeks after the school year begins can bring a better sale of extra inventory on clothing. Waiting longer will most likely yield even better bargains.