School supply sales have been in full swing for three weeks here, and I'm ready for it to be over. There's supplies. There's uniforms. There's new shoes and backpacks. It doesn't seem to end. And I realize how, so very quickly, people say they can shell out $500 a family before September hits.
The costs are a reason that many families I know do a dash among the various stores in town. Store X has crayons for a quarter. Store Y has backpacks for half-off. Store Z has cheap pens. And so forth.
For me, supply shopping has been a delicate balance of sale watching and the reality that the drive to the stores - and my time shopping - may not be worth the pennies saved. Consider the wear on your car, the oil, the gas, just to make the miles to the store. Or the fact that the hourly rate you make - which I consider the benchmark for a special trip - may vastly exceed the few dollars saved on an item, particularly when the items may or may not be in stock.
Our family's solution was to watch the sales and piggyback them on errands needed. If the pharmacy has other items I need or I'd planned a run to get a prescription, then it makes it worth it to stop to buy sale supplies. If not, it takes careful consideration whether it's worth the travel and time resources used just to save a few cents.
How do you balance the desire to save cash with the need to conserve resources and time?