Money Tips

Back-to-school shopping: six tips to save big

Young boy wearing a backpack and walking to school

It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost time to sharpen pencils, fill those backpacks, and send your student back to school! One of the most stressful parts of the back-to-school season is making sure your children get everything they need without breaking the bank…especially when each new school year often means a fresh set of supplies, clothes, or a new tech gadget—or maybe all three.

Amid soaring inflation, prices on all kinds of goods are up, and school supplies are no exception. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend record amounts for both back-to-school and back-to-college shopping this year. But inflation is not the only problem facing families this year—supply-chain shortages coupled with high consumer demand have been affecting online delivery speed and product availability in stores as well.

Despite these challenges, here are six easy ways to save money on back-to-school shopping this year:

1. Make a back-to-school budget

Before you start shopping, create a list of needs and put them in order from most important to least. You may not be able to cover everything right away—but creating this list will help you see what you need to tackle first. Once you have your list, create a budget for your back-to-school needs. Budgets are personal so you can set aside what amount you think is best for school supplies, create a category for clothes, and whatever else your student may need. As you set up your budget, you may want to take note of any monthly school-related expenses, like after-school care or club fees, so you can ensure they’re incorporated into your existing budget.

2. Shop online first

Some of the best deals on school items can be found online. Shopping online can also help you cut down those frivolous purchases that may result from wandering around the store. Another perk of online shopping are browser extensions that help you compare deals and potentially get additional savings. Extensions such as Honey and Rakuten track down the best deals. In addition to price comparisons, browser extensions often also automatically apply coupons at checkout or help you earn cash back while shopping online. Lastly, don’t forget to download mobile apps for your favorite stores. You can often find special offers, see store pickup options, and check out clearance items—all from the palm of your hand.

3. Use coupons while shopping in-store

If you can’t find what you need online and are heading to the malls, don’t forget to check for coupons to use in store. You can save money by finding coupons online or by checking those old-fashioned paper sales ads. It seems like a lot of work clipping or clicking and then keeping up with it all—but $0.50 here and $1.00 there really adds up. Some checking accounts, like Perks+ Checking, offer discounts and deals from both local and national retailers, which can help you save big, too!

4. Buy used when possible

Not everything can (or should!) be bought used, but the same goes for brand-new items. Sports gear is a great option to buy used, as well as electronics like refurbished computers or calculators. If your student is starting band, you may also be able to find used instruments. Consignment shops, garage sales, thrift stores, and Facebook Marketplace are all great options to find used items.

5. Shop with the right credit card

Whether you plan to shop online or in person, shop with a credit card that offers points or cash back. You’ll be able to earn rewards that may help defray the costs of heading back to school. Many cash-back credit cards offer an initial bonus for meeting a minimum spending requirement, but you may also earn rewards for each dollar you spend. Some credit cards earn you more rewards at places where you happen to purchase many of your school supplies, such as grocery stores or on Amazon. If you don’t already have one that offers these benefits, research and consider signing up before your next big shopping event.

6. Buy in bulk

For supplies that students need every year, like pens, pencils, or paper, considering buying them in bulk next time you stop by Sam’s Club or Costco. Purchasing these items in bulk as opposed to buying per unit is almost always cheaper, especially for large families. If you don’t have a lot of storage, consider splitting bulk packages with friends or neighbors so you can all take advantage of the savings.

Back-to-school spending is expected to reach an all-time high this year, with families of children in elementary through high school planning to spend an average of $890, while college students and their families are expected to spend an average of about $1,400 per person. Despite these high costs, following the above tips can help you save some cash while still setting your student up for success!

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