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Back-to-school doesn’t have to break the bank

September 9, 2012
By ADELLE WHITEFOOT - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Every year around this time the stores set out pencils, notebooks, folders and other school supplies in their seasonal section and ramp up the clothing sales. It can only mean one thing - parents and students are shopping for back-to-school gear.

The back-to-school shopping bill can really add up if it's not done in the right way. Liz Schaeffer, a sophomore at Northern Michigan University, is no stranger to back- to-school shopping. She looks for the sales and bargains.

"I try to shop clearance to start with, and if I can't find everything I need in clearance I will shop sales," Schaeffer said. "I almost never buy anything full price."

Article Photos

Liz Schaeffer looks through the clothing section at the St. Vincent De Paul store in Marquette. Schaeffer said she always looks for bargains when it comes to clothing and supplies for the new academic year. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

Schaeffer said she has a similar process for buying both clothes and school supplies. Sometimes that includes buying in bulk if the price is good, she said.

"I once bought a big bulk box of college ruled notebooks and there was 100 of them in this box. The reason I got it was that it was a really good price and I knew that it would last a long time," Schaeffer said. "I'm actually still using them today and they are about three or four years old. So I look for how many I can get for the lowest price."

Even though Schaeffer buys cheaper products she still pays some attention to the quality of the supplies, she said.

"Sometimes I try to avoid the (school supplies) that I know are just the absolute bottom of the bucket, but anything beyond those I really don't have a preference, as long as I know it won't break on me tomorrow," Schaeffer said. "It's hard to afford that stuff when you're a college student. Like other college students, the truth is I just don't have the available funds to pay full price."

Even though Schaeffer didn't buy a ton of school supplies this year, she said she got all of her school supplies for less than $20.

"I got a 30 pack of pencils and I talked them down a dollar. That should last me two semesters hopefully. I'm still working on those college ruled notebooks so I didn't buy any of those," Schaeffer said. "I did buy a zebra print message board because my roommate and I have such polar opposite schedules that we almost never see each other, little sticky notes, highlighters and a cheap package of pens because I was all out."

Schaeffer said when it comes to shopping sales she never looks at ads before she goes out shopping but instead grabs an in-store flyer when she walks in the store.

"Those (flyers) are the best things. Then you don't have to worry about getting to the store by a certain day," Schaeffer said. "Also, that way, when you have time to go to the store you'll know what the sales are that day."

Schaeffer said she's found it very stressful trying to fit in a certain time and day to shop specific sales between her busy schedule with work and school.

"I go out knowing what I'm looking for and where I can find it and I just try to get it at the cheapest price," Schaeffer said.

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is



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