Africa-Studio/ShutterstockAccording to the National Retail Federation, families with children in elementary through high school will spend an average of $690 this year, for a total of $29.5 billion—that’s 8 percent more than last year. There are ways to save on back-to-school items, if you plan ahead and don’t stray from your list. Here are 9 ways to get A+ savings this year for kids in elementary through high school, plus some money-saving tips for the college-bound.
1. Take inventory.
Go through drawers and cabinets to scrounge up the supplies you already have. Look for wear and tear on lunch boxes and backpacks to see if they’re reusable, and get your kids to try on all their clothes so you don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe.
2. Get the school’s list.
Many schools put out a list of required supplies and sometimes these mention what the school provides (less and less these days), so don’t duplicate spending. It’s useful for planning a budget, but check with your students’ teachers too to make sure the list matches up and doesn’t include “recommended” (i.e., not really necessary) items, or items specific to classes your child isn’t taking.
3. Sign up for savings.
Most sites will send you special deals if you sign up for alerts or even like their Facebook page. Look for deals at department and big-box stores and figure out your shopping strategy. You may be able to get additional savings by asking your favorite stores to price-match their competitors.
4. Check prices online.
Depending on what you need, your best bet may be buying online. Try price comparisons at PriceGrabber, Google Product Search, and Amazon as well as retailer sites. Don’t forget to look for student discounts and coupon codes.
5. Buy in bulk and bundles.
Look for values in combo deals and larger packages. Sometimes spending more up front is the best way to save in the long run. And while we know you’re not the one going back to school, don’t shy away from doing a little math to figure out the unit price – make sure you’re actually getting a bargain.
6. Take advantage of tax holidays.
Several states offer sales tax-free weekends on certain goods in July or August. Be sure to look up a list of the year’s tax holidays to find details.
7. Look off the beaten path.
If buying used is OK, there are more options than you might think. Don’t overlook yard sales, and nonprofits like The Salvation Army and Goodwill. Pay it forward to those groups (or other church and community drives) by donating what your kids can’t use anymore.
8. Reward your children.
If your children aren’t psyched about reusing last year’s lunchbox or want brand-name clothes, get them into finding the best deals by giving them a finder’s fee. Failing that, ask them to do extra chores and help out however they can in exchange for a few bucks toward the higher end school wares they’re coveting.
9. Shop throughout the year.
If you want the best prices, never stop paying attention. While the National Retail Federation says back-to-school shopping is the second biggest consumer spending event after the holidays, the best sales are rarely the most publicized or popular ones.