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Keeping It Cheap: Brookfield Mom Gives Tips On Finding Back-To-School Deals

From left, Evan, 9; Aaron, 6; Ian 13; and mom, Sara Belles, with some of the back to school items they purchased
From left, Evan, 9; Aaron, 6; Ian 13; and mom, Sara Belles, with some of the back to school items they purchased Photo Credit: contributed

BROOKFIELD, Conn. -- Sara Belles, a Brookfield mother of three school-age sons, knows a bargain when she sees one. Every year when purchasing back-to-school items, she creates a budget -- to spend under $25 -- and sticks to it.

Here is some advice she has for keeping it cheap when buying school supplies.

First, she recommends picking up the Sunday newspaper, which contains fliers and coupons to comparison shop. 

"Find the places where you will buy the most and start there," she said. "If you don't want to get the newspaper, there is an app called Flip -- which I got on the play store for Android -- that will show you all of the week's fliers and some coupons."

In addition, Belles makes use of store rewards cards such as ShopRite's Price Plus card, CVS' Extracare card and the Cartwheel app at Target.

ShopRite also has digital coupons that coincide with paper coupons. "For example, my oldest son wanted gel ink pens. At ShopRite, they were on sale for $3.99, down from $4.50. I had a 75-cent coupon, which doubled to $1.50. ShopRite also had a digital coupon for 75 cents. In the end, for four G2 pens, I paid $1.74," she said.

Belles explained that Target's Cartwheel app often has deals for basic back-to-school items. "You can download the Cartwheel app to your phone from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Target also has digital coupons that can be sent to your phone," she said.

Belles said parents should take into consideration how mature their children are -- or aren't -- when purchasing school supplies. "I bought my oldest pricy pens because he is responsible and won't lose them," she said.

However, she never overspends on pencils -- for any of her children. "They get lost or worn out quickly. As a former math teacher, I often had students ask to borrow a pencil. 

"The name brand for pencils costs almost $2 for 12 pencils while the cheaper brand gives you the same number of pencils for 50 cents."

She recommended buying extra items when they're on sale. "This week, Crayola Crayons are on sale at Staples for 50 cents a box. I will be buying the max quantity allowed. Your child will need more glue, crayons, markers, etc. throughout the year and it won't be on sale in January so buy extra now."

In many instances, it's better to wait until after the first week of school to buy some supplies because they go on clearance. 

"I bought erasers, scissors, composition notebooks and paper on clearance at a grocery store last year. We don't need to buy it this year for the start of the year. I will restock in a few weeks."

She also uses supplies from the previous school year if they're in good condition. 

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