The temperatures might not be cooling off for everyone, but there’s no question that summer vacation is ending. Within the next few weeks, most kids will be back in the classroom. It’s time for morning bells, class lectures, and homework. Oh, that means it’s also time for one more thing — back-to-school shopping.
For plenty of parents and kids, this is the fun part of returning to school. No matter the grade, there’s something exciting about fresh new school supplies. Depending on what you’re buying, though, that thrill can carry a heavy price tag. Before you get overwhelmed by the dollar signs, take a deep breath. Then keep reading for some helpful tips about how to save when shopping for school.
1. Use Your Debit Card
School shopping is no small endeavor. As your cart gets full, your bank account can start looking pretty empty. But if you have a debit card with a built-in savings feature, you can put some green back in as you take it out. Consider it a school shopping win-win.
With these types of cards, your bank automatically rounds up each purchase to the nearest dollar. Between clothes, paper supplies, and electronics, you may have to buy items at multiple places. Each swipe of the debit card equals a new deposit into your savings. Shifting those extra pennies to your stockpile will add up over time.
2. Shop With a Cash-Back Credit Card
Your debit card isn’t the only piece of plastic that can save you some school-shopping cash. If you have a credit card that gives you cash back, now is the time to use it. Cash-back credit cards will put dollars in your hand.
Basically, these cards give you a portion of your purchase price. For example, you could spend $300 on supplies. If your credit card gives you 1.5% cash back, you’ll receive $4.50 in rewards. Usually, that money comes back to you at the end of the billing cycle. You can redeem it in a variety of ways, such as a bank deposit, check, or gift card.
3. Look Online First
If you take a traditional approach to school shopping, you’re probably itching to head out to the stores in person. Walmart and Target set up great back-to-school sections. They’re not the only game in town, though. In fact, they may not be the cheapest.
To be sure you’re getting the best deals, give online shopping a try. In many cases, even brick-and-mortar stores offer online deals you can’t get by walking the aisles. Plus, there are a variety of online coupon extensions that can help you search for extra savings. These tools, like RetailMeNot and Honey, can help you snag discounts or free shipping.
4. Shop on the Tax Holidays
To be clear, not every state has one of these holidays, so you’ll need to do some research. If yours does, mark it on your calendar. Sales tax holidays typically happen over a weekend close to the start of school. On those days, you can buy all the school supplies you need without paying the added tax.
The great thing is the tax-free break applies to notebooks, pens, pencils, computers, clothes, and more. If it’s something your student can use in the classroom, it qualifies. Maximize the savings by stocking up on coupons and use them during the same shopping trip. It will feel like triple coupon day at the grocery store!
5. Go Generic
If buying store-brand items can save you money at the grocery store, it can do the same for your school supplies. The value and quality are nearly the same — but the price is much more attractive. In many cases, opting for a store-brand notebook or box of markers can cost a fraction of the name-brand product.
Think about it. A dollar here, 50 cents there — it all adds up. You could save double digits on your total at the check-out counter. Besides, when it comes to notebooks, paper is paper. It’s the same for markers. A generic red marker works just as well as Crayola.
6. Consider Refurbished Electronics
If your child is in middle or high school, school supplies are starting to get more expensive. Maybe it’s a graphing calculator for math class. Or perhaps your child’s school expects everyone to have a laptop. If the school doesn’t provide one, that means you must.
Fortunately, there’s little need to stress about computer costs. You don’t need to buy anything new. Refurbished products can easily do the trick. These used devices have been repaired and certified to work like new ones.
Be careful where you buy, however. Only shop with reputable retailers, such as Amazon or the computer manufacturer directly. Apple and Microsoft clearly label these used models, so they’re easy to find.
7. Look Through What’s at Home
Unless this is your child’s first day of school ever, you may have a few school supplies already lying around. Or maybe you have an older child who didn’t use all their stock from last year. If that’s the case, you don’t need to buy the same items again. Look at what you have in your house and cross what you can off your list.
The same can be true for clothes. When it’s possible, buying your kids a few new pieces for the school year can be fun. A fresh pair of tennis shoes or some new jeans can be a good kick-off for the year. Before you bring home a whole new wardrobe, however, have your kids try on their clothes to see what doesn’t fit. Then replace what they actually need.
Back-to-school shopping can be an enjoyable experience. It can also make you sweat when you see it draining your funds. So try these seven strategies when you head out. You may be surprised by how much money you can keep in the bank.