Back to School Shopping and Saving (+ a $200 Giveaway!)

It’s hard to even think about summer coming to an end, as it feels like we just got started here.  We are soaking up endless sunshine (going on 6 weeks with zero rain!), playing at every beach, blowing through tubes of sunscreen, and playing a LOT of baseball.  Sometimes the summer can feel exhausting because of the feeling that we need to DO ALL THE THINGS.  Because like it or not, the reality is that winter gloom is going to return eventually, and the only thing that gets us through it is the promise of these dreamy few months of super late sunsets, weekend boat rides, and trips to our favorite lake.

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It’s particularly hard to think about this summer every coming to and end because that means facing a different new reality.  The one where my first born – the kid who I’ve basically spent every waking minute with for the past almost-six years – will trot off to Kindergarten and start a whole big life in the outside world.  He is ready.  I am not.  But ready or not, September is coming and I need to get on board.

Because of our weird weather up here in the PNW, our school schedule is super different from what I’m used to back in Ohio.  Out here, school ends the very last week of June.  Insanity, right?  But it really doesn’t warm up here until then, so it makes sense that the schedule shifts a bit to maximize the summer play time.  And on the other side of summer, the fall school year doesn’t begin here until mid-September!  No complaints here though, I’m happy to have what feels like a few extra weeks before we pack away the beach toys and swim suits for another year.

Even though we still have some time to prepare, I’m trying to be super on the ball this year as we think about the next school year.  I want to take advantage of early back to school sales, and I want Cullen to have time to get used to his things before he needs them on that first day!

I was with some mama friends for a glorious night away a few weeks ago, and we were laughing at how we used to obsesssssss over decisions like what sippy cup is the best and how to handle leaving our babies with sitters for the very first time.  And then in true mom form, our conversation then shifted to the coming year – what size backpacks do our kids need?  What are the first day essentials?  What water bottle is actually leak-proof?  Same moms, older kids, same conversations.

And so with Kindergarten on the horizon, I’ve been shopping around for all those first-day must haves.  I’m trying to stick to the needs and not get caught up in the wants, but even so it all adds up.  This year, I’ve been utilizing RetailMeNot to find great deals on all the back to school items on our list!  (And PS – make sure you read to the end so you don’t miss the $200 Visa gift card giveaway I’m offering!)

If you haven’t used RetailMeNot before, it’s a one-stop shop for discounts, coupons, cash-back offers, and discount e-gift cards to all your favorites stores and restaurants.  Seriously every single store on my list for back to school shopping is featured, and we have been able to find great coupons and discounts to help us spend less during this expensive time of year.  Instead of clicking around to a million different sites, I was easily able to see the best sales on back to school all in one place – such a huge time saver. 

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As we all get ready to gear up for the next season, here are the three main ways I’m saving when shopping for back to school this year.

1. Coupon Codes

I am the queen of coupon codes!  Whenever I’ve bought anything online in the past, I found myself scouring the depths of the internet to find discount codes and perks like free shipping.  Once I found RetailMeNot, the digging was over and the codes were all right there in front of me in one place.  And so all that time once spent looking for deals can now be used looking for the items on my list!

First up?  The BACKPACK.  I browsed a bunch of the sites with sales and coupons before ultimately deciding on the Original Bookpack from LL Bean.  Even though I know Cullen would love something like fire trucks or dinosaurs right now, I’m hoping this will last a few years (wishful thinking?), so we are going the more basic route and then we will deck it out with fun key chains and patches and things to bring it to life.  I picked the pack, but he picked the color.  I had already picked it out when the catalog happened to show up in our mailbox, so it was easy to let him page through and check out the options.

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In related news, we have entered the stage of OPINIONS.  Who knew boys would care so much about this stuff?  Cullen was very clear about what colors he likes (or more so which ones he did NOT like) and what types of patterns he preferred. 

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He landed on a basic blue and green that I think is super cute. I can’t wait to see him carry it to school!

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Once we had a selection, I headed over to the RetailMeNot LL Bean page to see the current deals – 20% off – score!

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A total steal for only $23 after finding the 20% coupon code – plus free shipping!  Seriously, I never ever buy anything online unless I can find some sort of saving code or shipping perk – it makes a big difference over time.

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2.  Consolidating Shopping

I have found in the past that when I spread my list over multiple stores (instead of getting everything in one place), I’m much more likely to end up spending a lot more money.  Every store has those little add-ons and impulse buys, and it’s easy to lose track of the money you spent yesterday when you are focused on today.  So this year I tried to get as much as I could from the fewest number of stores, in order to minimize extra shipping charges and other things we didn’t need.

One of the biggest needs for the coming year was tackling the official school supplies list.  I thought this was something we’d end up doing in a store – wading through picked-over aisles of Crayola everything with grumpy kids.  I was thrilled to see on the RetailMeNot Back to School site that Target actually had a huge online school supply section all put together for easy navigating.  Hallelujah!

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Thank you RetailMeNot and Target for allowing me to even order the little things – like markers and erasers – online and keep it all together and organized!  But I didn’t wasn’t finished shopping, since I still had to check out the back to school clothing as well.  Gotta consolidate the shopping, right? Target has the most adorable Cat and Jack line that we just LOVE – the clothes are super cute and really affordable.  Here are a few of my favorites for the fall.

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The chess shirt is a MUST have!  When you ask Cullen what he is most excited for about Kindergarten his answer is “Chess and Lego club” – so ridiculous and cute.

3.  Cash-back Savings

Last but not least, I’m using the “cash-back” feature at RetailMeNot, which is literally as easy as clicking a few buttons.  There are some amazing deals from our favorite sites that put cash right back in our pockets (or Paypal account, to be more accurate) just for shopping through the RetailMeNot website or app

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I mean, AMAZON, you guys.  You don’t have to twist my arm to spend $60 there, and I will gladly take $10 back!  So easy.

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And now it’s your turn to save, or rather – WIN!  One lucky winner will get a $200 Visa gift card courtesy of RetailMeNot, to help you get all that you need for the coming school year!  To enter the giveaway, sign up for RetailMeNot and comment below the on which deals look exciting and why you would love to win!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  Open to eligible legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. at least the age of majority in their jurisdiction. Begins: July 28, at 12:00:00 AM PST. Ends: August 8, 2017 at 11:59:59 PM PST. Subject to Official Rules available at http://mediakix.com/sweepstakes-dailygarnish/  Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Mediakix LLC.

This post is sponsored by RetailMeNot.  Thanks for your continued support of Daily Garnish!