It is never too late to start thinking about back-to-school season, even if school has just ended.
Families spend a lot of money each year to get kids ready for back-to-school. For example, families with school-aged children expect an average of $848.90 for back-to-school supplies and gear. That’s a total expense of $37.1 billion spent nationally, according to the National Retail Federation, which is an all-time high reported in the annual survey.
Families can save some of that expense by planning for back to school and following some basic steps along the way. You can get organized by using your favorite online calendar to help plan your attack and to keep tabs on budgeting for your back-to-school shopping.
Here are some top ways to save while preparing to send your children back to school with everything they need.
1. Start Early With Weekly Shopping
It’s time to get organized and plan your back-to-school shopping. Prices change frequently, so you want to stay on top of what sales are possible for items your child may need in their backpack. Make a list of items you know will be required for school, focus on the stores with the best selections and prices, collect their sale notices and listings, and schedule your visits to those stores around their sales.
It’s a good idea to enter each store’s sales period in your calendar to keep track of those discount periods. Then, for harder-to-find items, consider watching for price drops at a particular store with good discounts and buy even if you don’t find them on sale to beat the back-to-school rush.
2. You Can Delay the Basics
Some school items will probably drop in price the closer you get to the start of school — such as paper, pens, and notebooks. However, there are also other ways to save on these items, so don’t rush out early to buy the basics. Instead, focus on more specific types of supplies, like a particular calendar or science gear.
3. Scour Everything For Coupons
You probably have access to more coupons than you know. They come through direct mail sent to your mailbox, email spam that includes coupons for specific stores, and even those circulars that are inserted into newspapers. Be diligent about scouring everything and everywhere for coupons.
For example, you can even search online for coupons and discounts for specific items. For example, Amazon frequently offers coupons on school and office supplies, so make sure to check for those bargains. Also, make sure to keep track of coupon expiration dates on your favorite online calendar to make sure you do not let those slip by.
4. Keep Track of Good Deals to Price Match
As you compare prices and collect coupons, keep track of deals at office supply stores or retailers. Then, you can use those deals to negotiate discounts at other retailers that match prices. This is handy, mainly when supplies are limited or sold out at the store offering the initial deal.
5. Sell What You Don’t Need Before Buying
Make sure to go through old office supplies, equipment, and accessories to sell anything you no longer need for school. While at it, check around the house for anything you can sell that is no longer being used. This will give you a good head start on the cash you will need for back-to-school shopping.
6. Save When You Buy in Bulk
If you, a friend, or a relative have access to bulk shopping centers, consider buying items to save money. You can join forces with relatives, friends, neighbors, and other school parents. Buy large quantities of things like pens, pencils, paper, tissues, crayons, brown paper bags, cleaners, and anything children need. Split the cost with your group and divvy up the supplies equally.
7. Shop Without Your Kids
An easy way to save money on back-to-school shopping is to leave your children at home. When you bring your children to the store, they may pick up more expensive items than are necessary or ignore your effort to save money. If your children insist, leave a few things that need to be purchased for them to pick out at a store you have already scouted for good prices. Let them pick folders or notebooks, or you can say they can choose their backpack within a budget you give the
8. Buy Used When Possible
If your children must buy textbooks for their classes or certain books needed for other purposes, buy used when possible. This is particularly true for higher education classes, where you can quickly pay hundreds of dollars for one textbook. Check out online selling forums on Facebook, eBay, and other programs that allow sellers to post items. You can find lots of great bargains here, not only on textbooks but on other supplies and equipment.
9. Search for E-Textbook License and Other Textbook Bargains
If you have trouble finding used books, consider alternatives to buying new textbooks. For example, see if you can buy a less expensive e-Textbook license for your book. You can also consider comparing prices at certain retailers for textbooks and checking for coupons before you buy. There is TUN’s Textbook Save Engine or CampusBooks’ search feature that can help you find the cheapest options for specific books.
10. Find Exclusive Student Deals
Many retailers offer student discounts for certain supplies and equipment. For example, Best Buy features College Student Deals, and some technology companies offer a specific discount pricing, including high school students. These exclusive student deals can save you big bucks on necessary technology and equipment.
11. Budget For Backpacks
One of the most expensive back-to-school purchases typically is that new backpack that your student thinks they must buy. You can save a good amount by avoiding expensive brand-name backpacks and those themed after movies or cartoon characters. You might find you can make a deal with your high school student, for example, by paying a little more for a quality backpack from Timberland or Rockland. The value is, however, that they have to agree to use it throughout high school. Otherwise, a sturdy, heavy backpack without the flashy brand name will save you money.
12. Time Your Electronics Purchases
Plan those purchases if you know you will have expensive electronics purchases on your back-to-school list. There are two things to consider when planning those expenses. First, consumer experts note that the spring and fall are the best times to buy computers and other electronics. Second, many states waive sales taxes on back-to-school items.
Find out if and when your state tax holiday is and add it to your calendar. Then line up the specials at electronics retailers to see if you can make your purchase at a time when they overlap with your sales tax holiday. Add them both to your calendar to stay on top of the deals.
13. Look for Clothing Deals
It can be expensive to buy new wardrobes for your children to return to school. So start looking for bargains early for clothes. If you have a large network of parents with older children, you can host a clothing swap to see if some items are for your kids and theirs. You can also check with second-hand stores to find clothing your child will like.
14. Take Advantage of Credit Card Offers
You may have credit cards that offer rebates and rewards to help you save money on back-to-school shopping. Make sure you take advantage of those rebates on items you know you will have to buy anyway. Depending on the credit card promotion, you can earn between 2% and 5% back on every purchase. Remember that even small amounts of money can add up!
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyil; Pexels; Thank you!
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