Back to school shopping tips

Posted at 5:54 AM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-18 08:56:33-04

How much does it cost to get your kids back to school? According to the National Retail Federation, back to school spending was expected to hit $68 billion in 2015. This year, parents plan to spend an average of $917 per child. To retailers, back to school time represents the second highest level of consumer spending. To parents, it means a lot of cash.

Shopping for back to school supplies doesn’t have to be stressful or too expensive! Use these tips to make sure that your shopping will be stress-free for you and exciting for your kids.



1. What’s old is new

Your child’s school may have given you a list, but you don’t know what you need for next year until you assess what you already have. Don’t let school supplies from last year go to waste. Plan a scavenger hunt through every desk drawer, closet and storage bin to hunt for stray supplies. Items such as calculators, rulers, compasses and protractors should hold up from year to year. Be sure to pass supplies down to your younger children, too.

2. Find a Balance

The trendy items that your kids beg for are often the most expensive. It is possible to find the balance between fads and basics, all while keeping kids happy. Let your student write a top-three item wish list, from fancy lunch boxes to name-brand shoes. By encouraging your children to choose, you’re teaching them money management skills.

3. Check online

Keep cool while you shop and check online prices before you head out. Now that you have a specific list, search online for items at your favorite stores. Sales are usually promoted online, but Twitter is another way to check for deals. Staples and Office Max tweet out coupons during back to school season. Other online resources are sites such as RetailMeNot. With a specific section for back to school shopping, you can find deals all in one place.

4. Price matching

You’ve done your research, so it’s time for the stores to work for you. You don’t have to drive all over town to snag the best deals—instead you can head into one store with price-match guarantees. Stores such as Staples, Walmart and Target will match prices if you bring proof of the competitor’s pricing; this can be an ad or their prices online. Additionally, Walmart offers its Savings Catcher. By entering your receipt number online, the site scans for competitors’ deals within a week of your purchase. If Walmart didn’t give you the best deal, it will mail you an e-giftcard with the difference.

5. Hold off

The busiest time of the year to purchase school supplies is in August. After the rush, you can get the best deals on supplies during blowout sales. Of course, you’ll have less of a selection if you wait to purchase supplies. However, if you only wait to purchase basic items after the rush, you can snag specific items earlier.

6. Opt for quality

High-quality items are generally more expensive than lower-end brands upfront. However, you usually get what you pay for. Many quality brands offer lifetime warranties on their products. For example, if a backpack from JanSport or REI wears out, your replacement is free. Opting for quality brands, especially on items that you know your child will need every year, means that you may only need to pay for it once.

7. Find resources

If your family or a family you know is struggling to purchase supplies this year, there are programs ready to help. The Salvation Army gives school supplies to qualifying families each year in its Pack to School program. Other programs such as Arizona Helping Hands give out backpacks.

8. Give support

After your back to school shopping is over, you may choose to donate your extra items. Local donation centers, schools, foster care homes and tutoring centers are all organizations that regularly receive school supply donations. If your children can come with you to drop off the items, it can be their first back to school lesson of the season. In addition to helping other families in need, you may be able to record the donation in your tax returns this year.

With these tips, back to school shopping can be more streamlined than ever. Let us know of any tricks you use!