THE BLOG
11/06/2013 06:55 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

How to Save More Money on School Expenses

For Women & Co. by Holly Mangan, MoneyCrashers.com

School expenses don't just happen once a year. Even if you checked off every item on your kid's back-to-school shopping list, don't put away your wallet just yet. Throughout the year you may need to spend on supplies for sports, band, and clubs, as well as on field trips, school projects, uniforms, and of course, everyday clothes. That's a long list of items, but it doesn't mean there aren't opportunities to save.

Consider the following tips to shop smart and reduce the cost of school expenses all year long.

1. Sign up for rewards with major supply retailers.
One way to score discounts on supplies for school projects and electronics is through major retailers, such as Office Depot, Staples, and Office Max. Sign up for email updates with each and participate in their rewards programs. Once you're a member, take advantage of the various 100% cash-back rebates offered on different items throughout the year. You pay the full price up-front and then get your money back in the form of a rewards certificate, usually issued the following quarter. Even if you don't have a brick-and-mortar location in your area, you can still take advantage of deals featured online.

2. Use the dollar store.
For school projects, Halloween costumes, and holiday cards and gifts, don't forget to check the dollar store. The selection of items changes, but even if you purchase last-minute, you can still find some great discounts. A good way to score deals is to check regularly as new items become available. Also, consider stocking up if you see a product you don't need now, but know you're going to need later.

3. Go thrift shopping.
Some folks look at thrift shopping as a treasure hunt -- and as long as you're OK with someone else's lightly used items, your local thrift can be a fantastic way to save on clothes and athletic gear. Not everyone takes to it, but if your child can see the massive savings on a nearly new pair of designer jeans, you may have a budding convert -- especially if they're spending their own money. For the best selection, ask what day the thrift puts new donations out on the floor.

4. Hold a fundraiser.
Chances are you're not the only parent struggling to pay for the never-ending barrage of school-related expenses. If you have a particular project or event you need funding for, like a class field trip -- get together with other parents (and get permission from the school) to hold a fundraiser. Parents at my local charter school recently organized a concert with local musicians to raise money for the school band. It was wildly successful and brought in over $1,700 for instruments, instruction, and uniforms. Get creative, get permission, get help, and the sky's the limit.

Incorporate these tips with other good savings habits -- stay on top of grocery and department store sales, use coupons, and scour the Internet for better prices on any items you buy online. Not only can you trim your budget and have more saved up for college or retirement, but you can also teach your child lifelong savings habits as well.
What are you doing to reduce school expenses?

Women & Co., a service of Citi, is the go-to personal finance source for women. By providing financial content, commentary and community, Women & Co.'s mission is to get women thinking and talking about personal finance. Founded in 2000, Women & Co. is one of the longest running personal finance websites dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures.