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According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), back-to-school spending has been on the rise, jumping nearly $5 billion in the past three years. On average, families spend close to $700 per child. Don’t get schooled this fall! Save money with our back-to-school shopping cheat sheet.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
Many districts release supply lists at the end of the school year. Whether it is mailed or posted to the website, get the list as early as possible to strategize your savings opportunities. Watch big-box retailers, local grocery, and office supply stores for sales throughout the summer and sign up for special offers, coupons, rebates, and cash back rewards.
Search online and price-compare for deals on expensive items like laptop computers, tablets, calculators, flash drives, chargers, and cell phones. When it comes to technology, consider buying a higher-quality item on sale rather than risk replacing less-durable average-quality items mid-year.
To help kids get excited about the new school year, involve them in the back-to-school planning. Before heading to the store, take inventory at home and identify reusable items. Pencil cases, backpacks, lunch boxes, binders, and folders with little wear may work for a second school year. Motivate kids to help by offering a ‘finder’s fee’ when they identify and agree to reuse items.
The NRF noticed that more than half of back-to-school purchases are a direct result of a child’s influence and that kids are more likely to help parents pay for specific items. Give them a budget and let them choose new clothes and other things that fit within their budget. Help them make decisions about after-school activities based on the cost of instruments, equipment, and uniforms.
Follow the Leader
The best way to save money on school supplies is to stick to the list. If possible, ask teachers to distinguish items as required or only recommended. If they request specific brand and model numbers for technology, shop early to ensure the product is in stock.
In-store displays are designed to appeal to kids and foster impulse purchases. Resist the urge to buy trendy items that may lose appeal once kids see friends with another style. Coordinating with another family and shopping warehouse club stores is a great way to take advantage of bundled items.
To avoid temptation entirely, shop online! Items can be picked up curbside or delivered to your front door. Many districts and parent-teacher associations offer pre-packaged school supplies online that are sent straight to the school, eliminating the hustle and bustle.
Decode the Dress Code
Many states offer a tax-free weekend at the end of summer which can lead to significant savings on more expensive items like clothing and shoes. Check online to see if your state is participating, which items are exempt and for sale dates.
Short-sleeved shirts can be worn during most of the fall semester, so snap up these bargains toward the end of summer. Follow favorite retailers on social media and watch for coupons and special offers beginning in July. Prices drop significantly after the start of the school year, so hold off until September for warmer items. Consignment shops are a great place for bargains on gently worn clothing for younger kids who grow quickly.
Save Your Lunch Money
Estimates state that disposable lunches generate nearly 70 pounds of waste per child each school year. Rather than wasting money on one-use plastic bags, pre-packaged snacks and desserts and disposable drink containers, make the switch to sustainable materials. Washable sandwich bags, popular bento box-style lunchboxes, and reusable stainless-steel water bottles save money in the long term and keep materials out of the landfill. Waste-free lunches are on trend this year and great example about how little changes can make a big difference in our world.
Go to the Head of the Class
The NRF cites back-to-school shopping as the largest consumer spending event, second only to holiday shopping. Get a jump on next year by starting a new SmartyPig account dedicated to back-to-school essentials now. Our interest rates reward saving and help you save more!
With these simple tips, you’ll be able to send your kids off with everything they need to make this school year a success without breaking the bank!