Back-to-School Clothes Shopping or How I Bought $207 in School Uniforms But Paid Only $87

It’s been a few years since I’ve endured back-to-school shopping, all-school fundraisers, and parent-teacher conferences. Still, for me, the end of summer brings a sweet sense of excitement over September’s promise of a clean slate.

I can only assume that having spent so many years in school myself and then doing it all over again with my kids—and now my grandsons—my inner clock is stuck on the school, not the calendar, year.

Gone are the days when back-to-school meant a new pair of shoes. Nowadays, that simple three-word phrase is tantamount to the first domino that starts a chain of reactions into clothes, backpacks, supplies, fundraisers, after-school care, sports, clubs, school parties, nutritious breakfasts, loads of laundry, carpools, mobile phones, parking passes, lunch bags, teacher gifts and on and on it goes.

The challenge for all of us is to find practical ways to save time and money every day in all areas that relate to our kids, school and family life.

MORE: Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

Today, I want to share a story with you to demonstrate a way that you can get your kids’ clothes (yours, too!) and or school uniforms at huge savings—not from the thrift store and not the clothes your kids don’t want but they’re going to get, just because they’re on sale! I’m talking about the stores and style you and the kids love.

Here’s what happened: I asked my daughter-in-law if Eli (the cutest newly-minted fourth grader on earth) needed any school clothes. The answer was “Yes, please!” which gave me a wonderful reason to go shopping. Online. At home from my computer. Eli’s school requires uniforms—for the boys, it’s basic polo shirts and slacks.

I want to check out JCPenney, but I don’t go there quite yet. Instead, I head to and sign into my account. Rakuten is a rebate site and because I’ve have signed up (it’s free), I can click on any of the store links on the Rakuten site (there are hundreds including favorites like Amazon, Old Navy, Chico’s, JCPenney, Lowes, Groupon), make a purchase and get money back—2% to 10% of the total sale is typical. Rebates are small, but over time they all add up. Every three months I get a rebate check in the mail, provided I’ve earned at least $5 in rebates.

STORY: An Incredibly Easy Way to Save Money Shopping Online

Back to the story. I find the polo shirts, slacks, and shorts in the colors Eli wants and the approved styles—$13, $36, and $30 each, respectively. I put three shirts, three slacks, and two shorts into my cart. Total: $207.

But glory be, all items are on sale (thank you, JCP) which brings my total to $133. This is important: I do not check out. I leave this window open because I’m hoping to pay less than that.

I open a new browser window (so I don’t lose my shopping cart at JCPenney) and head to Because I know I’m still logged in at Rakuten, if I can find a discounted JCPenney eGift Card at Raise and buy it, I will get cash back into my Rakuten account on that transaction! I do.

I find three $50 eGift Cards being offered for 11.3% discount or about $44 each. That should more than do it over at JCPenney (leaving a small credit in my JCP Gift Card account), so I buy them. I pay for the eGift Cards with my credit card that gives me 2% cash back. Bam! Another discount.

Almost immediately, I get notified by Rakuten of 3% cash back, which effectively reduces the cost of those eGift Cards even further. But there’s even more:

I head back to JCPenney with my eGift Cards in tow(Raise sent me the eGift Card numbers and PIN for each by email within moments of my purchase) and upload them to JCPenney checkout so I can pay for these clothes in my cart.

As I prepare to check out, I see that JCPenney has a coupon for me—25% off my entire purchase. Well, thank you! That brings my total to $104. But I don’t actually pay $104 because I got 11.3% discount on my eGift Cards. By paying with those gift cards, the clothes will cost me $92.25 including tax and shipping ($104 minus 11.3%).

I close the transaction and in just a few minutes, get a message from Rakuten that 3% of that transaction is back into my Rakuten account, in cash, which effectively drops my actual purchase amount even further.

Adding together the sale prices, the 25% off coupon, cash back to my Rakuten account and the discounted eGift Cards from, my original $207 purchase dropped 58% to just $87.

I know this sounds complicated, even confusing but it’s quite simple. That I purchased $207 in school uniforms and paid only $87—the exact clothes Eli needs in the colors he wants and style the school approves—is fabulous, but should be routine as long as these kinds of deals exist. The effort was well worth the savings!

MORE: Back-to-School Brings Out Shopping Lists and Fundraisers, Too

Here are the simple steps:

1. Create free accounts Rakuten and at Raise.

2. Go to and then click on the store/retailer of choice to make your selections. Put the items into your cart, making a note of the total dollar figure. Don’t close this window, even though you are going to leave for a few minutes.

3. Open a new browser window and log in to your account at Look for an eGift Card for the retailer where you are shopping. If you find one you like, make the purchase. Because your Rakuten account is active here at Raise, you’ll get cash back into your Rakuten account for the purchase. If you have a credit card that gives you cash back, use it to purchase your Raise eGift Card to reduce the cost even more.

4. Return to the retailer site and your shopping cart. Check to see if there are any discount codes or coupons available. A simple online search will turn up current codes and coupons. (Note: JCPenney seems to always have something, and they offer these codes and coupons at checkout, which makes it so easy and the reason I check JCP first).

5. Add up all your rebates, cash back, and savings.

6. Rejoice.

PREVIOUSLY: How to Make Even an Elderly Dishwasher Perform Like New

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