Being Smart About Back-to-School Shopping

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It’s that time of the year again when kids return to school with fresh clothes, supplies, and maybe even a new tech gadget. As a parent, it’s important for you to prepare your kids for a successful school year.

Yet, you might also be preparing your bank account, since one-third of consumers plan to cut back on spending this year due to inflation.

Despite these rising costs, you can still be savvy when shopping for back-to-school items. To help you save money, here are some ways you can start the process the smart way.

1. Make a Checklist of Necessary Items

During a shopping trip, shiny new objects can turn heads and distract you from what your kids truly need for school. Therefore, it’s important to make a checklist of what’s needed vs. what you want.

While splurging on a wanted item is OK, it’s better to stick to what’s necessary. Purchasing unnecessary items can add up more quickly than you think.

So, whether you’re buying a new pair of jeans or a pack of highlighters, make sure the items on your list are something you envision a student using daily. Making a complete list will give you the mental incentive to stick with those items, saving you money as soon as you’re ready to check out.

2. Create a Budget

Aside from making a list, creating a budget can also help you set limits. Once you create your list of items, it helps to estimate the cost of each one and add it up to get your best estimate. Then, you can review your income and expenses to see how much you can afford to spend on back-to-school shopping.

Gathering these numbers will help you create a budget that works for your household. And if you can stay under budget, that’s an even bigger win.

3. Stay Secure When Shopping Online

If you plan to shop for back-to-school supplies online, ensure you use websites you trust or know are secure. One way you can determine if a website is safe is by researching and reading reviews.

You can also check if the link starts with HTTPS and not HTTP, since the “s” stands for secure. An additional way to tell if the site is secure is by seeking the padlock icon in the browser.

You must also be careful not to click on social media links or unsolicited emails. Many cybercriminals are waiting to obtain your personal information, which they can easily get when you download attachments and click on external links.

4. Compare the Best Deals Online

Shopping online is easy because it gives you access to the best deals by comparing various sites. Plus, many online places allow you to sign up for newsletters and receive discount codes. Or, some websites are willing to share the top deals on a certain item you’re looking for online.

Either way, shopping online comes in handy when it comes to saving money. Additionally, it can save you time and help you stick to your budget in the long run.

5. Shop on a Tax-Free Weekend

Depending on where you live, your state might give you a tax break during a certain time of the year. In other words, when you make a purchase, items such as school supplies and clothes won’t have sales tax.

These are also known as tax-free weekends, and you can take advantage of them by stocking up on clothes, shoes, and supplies for the upcoming school year.

6. Buy Used or Refurbished

Places like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Best Buy can help you track down the items you’re looking for in used or refurbished condition.

Buying items in these conditions could save a lot of money. Plus, many of the products are practically new, so you’re paying less for a “brand new” item.

Aside from shopping online, you can also find brand-new clothes with tags still on them in the thrift store. Thrift stores can carry high-end pieces of clothing for low prices, so be sure to look for these places when shopping for back-to-school clothes.

7. Use Browser Extensions to Find Deals

You might think comparing prices online yourself gives you the best deals. However, there’s a good chance you can find even better prices somewhere else.

Honey by PayPal is an extension you can add to your browser, helping you track the best deals in one place. Therefore, you save time in sifting through multiple sites at once, and Honey will pull the lowest price points available on the internet.

In addition to comparing prices, you can also find browser extensions that apply coupons at checkout. Or, you can find ones that enable you to earn cash back while shopping online.

8. Use “Buy Now, Pay Later” Programs

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) programs like Afterpay and Klarna enable customers to buy items without paying for the entire balance upfront. Often, these programs are convenient for those who find it easier to break their purchases into four payments over several weeks.

Many of these platforms are interest-free. However, it’s important to check before using a platform, as some have interest rates as high as 30%.

Meanwhile, some can negatively impact your credit if you make a late payment. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to do your research before you decide to use a BNPL program.

9. Tag Team With Other Parents to Get More Discounts

Ever gotten an email from a retailer asking you to send referral discount codes to friends? At the same time, you receive a discount in exchange. This is your opportunity to take advantage of that. Consider partnering with other parents who need similar items and create a savings plan.

One approach is to find a parent who has a membership to a wholesale store and receives major discounts. You can give them the money to buy the school supplies the next time they go shopping there.

Another method is to take advantage of employee discounts if you know a parent or friend who works in a retail store. They might also be able to keep an eye on sales for you if you tell them what you need.

10. Visit the Local Library

Check your local library to see if they can help you save money on school supplies. Some offer assistance or programs providing students with free backpacks and other school supplies.

Consider signing up for a library card. You can use your library’s resources by borrowing books and technology.

Your child may already have access to the school library. However, having a library card to borrow extra books or computers to study doesn’t hurt. Plus, it will save you from spending excessively on tech gear.

11. Spread Your Back-to-School Purchases

Rather than buying everything at once, spending your money in increments is better. For example, you can go shopping on a week that you have the extra money in your account. Then, you can keep shopping the next week you get paid.

Another way to spread your spending is by taking advantage of bulk deals. This method is ideal if you have multiple kids in school.

Even if you only have one kid in school, buying bulk helps you save and make supplies last much longer.

12. Use Gift Cards

Save even more money if you have gift cards to help you with back-to-school purchases. Another option is to purchase gift cards yourself since you can use them like cash. You may want to use this opportunity because it can help curb your and your children’s impulses.

Or, if you have older children, you can allow them to shop for their supplies by giving them gift cards. This approach teaches them how to manage their money and make better financial decisions.

13. Use a Shopping Portal

Shopping portals like Rakuten help you earn bonus points, cash back, or airline miles on your purchases through their website.

All you have to do is go to a shopping portal and choose your favorite merchant. Once you click on one, it will redirect you to the website, and you can place an order from there. With only a few additional clicks, you can rack up your rewards and earn discounts on various online retailers.

14. Keep Track of Your Receipts

Shopping for the essentials online is easy because you can have your receipts sent straight to your email. Yet, keeping your receipts on hand is important if you prefer to shop in person. You never know when you’ll need to return something at the end of the day. And searching through multiple bags to find a receipt can be daunting.

Therefore, it’s best to keep your receipts somewhere you can immediately find them, like your wallet. Doing so keeps the process stress-free and organized while you prepare your kids for going back to school.

Save Time and Money on School Supplies

Make the most of your back-to-school experience by incorporating these thrifty tips. By making smarter decisions, you save more money and your sanity in the long run. Plus, your kids will have everything they need to make the new school year successful.