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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.

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Today I am especially impressed if not excited by the cool and very useful money- and time-saving tips my EC readers send to me.

Not that long ago I stopped into a discount clothing store (Marshall’s to be exact) to get my husband a new belt. I enjoy the classy look of a high-quality leather belt and I know this store usually has a fairly decent selection. And they did. The problem was that not one of them was smaller than a size 52. What!? I walked out empty-handed. Then I heard from Reader Bob. Why didn’t I think of that?

Bargain belts

The discount clothing stores seem to frequently have a pretty good selection of high-quality men’s leather belts. The only problem for me is that the name-brand belts they carry are usually in sizes too big for me. I buy them anyway and take them to a shoe repairman near my home who removes the buckles, cuts off the extra inches and re-attaches the buckles. He charges me $3-$5 a belt. I spend on average $15 to $20 on a belt that retails in department stores for $50 to $80, or more. Bob W.

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Frozen rice

I cruise through the frozen food aisles at my favorite warehouse clubs (like Sam’s and Costco) to see what’s new. I figure if they can freeze it, so can I. On a recent trip I saw a long line of people waiting for samples. I sneaked over to see what it was, only to discover rice! Frozen pre-cooked plain white rice. People seemed to think that was the greatest invention ever and they were all tossing it in their carts. I went home, pulled out the rice cooker, made my own and froze it in individual portions. Rebecca M. Read more