It’s back-to-school season, and that means you probably have a list of stuff a mile long to buy. The good news is that you don’t need to break the budget during the second-biggest shopping season of the year. There are lots of ways to save, and if you plan your shopping well in advance instead of frantically rushing to get everything done at the last minute, you can save a lot of money. Below, we’ve compiled seven back-to-school shopping hacks to get you started!
1. Take Inventory
Don’t set foot in a single store without first checking to see what you have at home. You may have some notebooks and paper or autumn wear for your child from an end-of-season sale last year stashed away that you forgot about. Keep a running list of everything you find so you know exactly what you have before you spend a dime on new supplies and clothing.
2. Shop Tax-free
Many states offer a sales tax holiday sometime during the summer, and if you use these days to shop for big-ticket items like a new laptop or pair of school shoes you can shave a significant amount of money off the final price. You can find a list of sales tax holidays by state here.
3. Shop with a List
When we say, “a list”, we’re not talking about the list of required supplies your child’s school or teacher has sent home. When shopping for anything, especially with kids and teens, it’s best to start out with a clear goal of what you plan to buy. This way, you’ll be less likely to overspend and come home with bags of stuff you don’t really need (along with lots of buyer’s remorse). Make a list before hitting the mall, the school supplies store, and even before shopping online.
4. Divide and Conquer
The circulars are packed with specials on school supplies all summer long. The problem is that while one store is offering a crazy-low deal on crayons this week, another store is running a super sale on pencils…and the stores are across town from each other. You don’t want to spend all weekend hunting down supplies, and you don’t want to lose all your savings to fill the tank of your car either. Keep your savings, and your sanity, by teaming up with a spouse, family member, or friend. Divide the school supply list between the two of you, pooling costs and paying back as necessary. This way, while one of you can go pick up the crayons at half-price in one store, the other can load up on marked-down pencils in another at the same time.
5. Let Your Kids Choose Some Items on Their Own
Teach your kids a lesson in budgeting by allowing them to shop for one or more of the costlier items they need now on their own. For example, you can have your middle-schooler choose and pay for their own backpack. Set a reasonable budget together, but let your child do the actual choosing and paying on their own. They’ll learn how to make responsible money choices and have fun doing it! To encourage thriftiness, you can offer to allow your child to keep the change.
6. Save Some Stuff for Later
Yes, your child will be starting school soon and they’ll need some supplies and clothing before their first day. But the stores won’t be going anywhere, and there’s no need to purchase a complete autumn wardrobe before Labor Day. Waiting a bit for the mid-season sales can save you a ton of money. As a bonus, shopping without the pressure of having everything ready for the new school year will help you make better money choices.
7. Scan Receipts to Get Cash Back
Put more money back in your wallet by scanning or uploading your receipts to cash-back sites or apps. Some popular cash-back apps include Coupons.com, Dosh, and Ibotta. It’s like getting paid to shop!
It’s back-to-school shopping season, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend yourself broke! A little planning, a little patience, and following these savings hacks can go a long way. You can get your school shopping done with less stress and without breaking your budget. You might even have a little fun getting the kids ready for school this year!