As students across the country prepare to head back to school, one thing on the minds of parents is back-to-school shopping for supplies. Pencils and pens, binders and notebooks, scissors and ruler -- the shopping list seems to never end.
But stocking up on school supplies doesn't have to be a headache. There are a multitude of digital ways to save money and time, helping make life a little easier.
One simple way to save on school supplies is to make use of coupons. But instead of looking through today's paper for coupons, try looking online.
One coupon site, RetailMeNot, has a special "Back to School" section where it features coupons, promotional codes and discounts for popular back-to-school stores such as OfficeMax and Office Depot. Flamingo World, another coupon site, offers discounts and deals at stores such as Target and Walmart. And Coupon Mountain has a "Back to School" page where it lists savings on school supplies from various stores.
Also, be sure to check the websites for office supply stores such as Office Max, Office Depot and Staples for their local weekly sales and discounts. Stores such as Walmart, Target and Kmart have postings of their sales online, as well.
Rowley also recommends signing up on a retailer's web site to have coupons sent to you and checking for deals on social media websites such as Twitter.com.
"Always check Twitter for last-minute specials before you head off to shop," she said.
You can follow these coupon sites on Twitter to get the latest updates:
Price Comparison Sites
If you want to know what store to shop at to get the lowest price, price comparison websites make finding the best deals quick and easy. The sites allow you to type in a particular item such as colored pencils or backpacks and compare the prices at a variety of stores. Google Shopping, Bizrate, PriceGrabber and Sccope are all sites for comparing prices for the items on your school supplies list.
"The web makes pricing completely transparent," Rowley said. "Parents can comparison shop stores without ever leaving the house. They can also get a very clear picture of what an item costs, which helps them budget more accurately for the season."
You can also follow these price comparison sites on Twitter to get the latest updates:
Another way to shop for school supplies is through swapping web sites. These sites allow people to swap things they already have for things they need, a digital trading post of sorts.
Swapping sites are especially great when shopping for required reading materials. One of the sites is Swaptree, which allows you to create a "have" list and a "want" list. According to the site, "Swaptree will show you all of the items that you can receive for your items. Clicking on a 'GET NOW' link next to an item will show more information about both the item and the trader you will be receiving the item from. Once the other traders accept, the trade is complete and you will then be provided the shipping address where you need to ship your item."
PaperBackSwap is another swapping site that lets people exchange books for free. According to its website, you "list books you'd like to swap with other club members. Once a book is requested, mail it to the club member. In return, you may choose from 4,624,876 available books."
You can also follow these swapping sites on Twitter to get the latest updates:
Cell Phone Applications
While out shopping for schools supplies, you can use your cell phone to keep track of purchases and stay up to date on the latest deals.
"Mobile shopping applications can be a valuable time-saving tool, and give on-the-go consumers true convenience whenever and wherever they are -- especially during back to school time," Rowley said. For example, the Yahoo! Shopping application for iPhone and iPod Touch lets you search through and buy millions of products, including the necessary school supplies, in our vast catalog – anytime, anywhere. Whether you're out with friends, in transit or in a store, you can search, compare prices, read reviews, save, share products with others and click to buy at any one of Yahoo!'s merchant Web sites directly within the application.
The Yahoo! Shopping app for the iPhone and the iPod Touch allows shoppers to compare prices, read reviews and purchase products, all while you're on-the-go.
Price Grabber's iPhone, iPad and Android application lets you scan barcodes to find the product from a variety of retail outlets, as well as search and compare items on the go. Sccope also has a mobile application for BlackBerry and iPhone users offering similar capabilities when searching for and comparing products. The app allows you to create a wish list and keep track of prices, as well.
"To catch those bargain-basement school supply deals at your local grocery store, check out cellfire.com, which deliver the deals you choose to your cell phone or lets you upload them to your grocery store loyalty card," Rowley said.