While a few parents across the country have already sent their children off to school, many more of you are beginning the preparations for the new school year. On average, a family can spend well over $600 per student on clothes, supplies and the like, according to the National Retail Federation. This is before the costs associated with transportation, school lunches and incidentals that always seem to pop up. Here are six surefire ways to save money on those necessities that Forbes says covers “something to write with, something to write on, and something to put stuff in.”
1. Have a budget
The worst thing any parent can do for their wallet and for their sanity is to go into the throes of back-to-school shopping blindly. Create a budget and stick to it. Otherwise, you will find yourself spending more than you planned on things that your child doesn’t necessarily need and this is a huge waste of money and time— both of which are precious commodities for working families.
2. Stick to the teacher’s list
The teacher knows exactly what your child will need to be successful for the year. They have taken their time to cultivate the lists they create for parents based upon lesson plans and learning goals for the year. Get what you child needs, not what they want. Also, shop at home! You may find that you already have some of the necessary items on hand and can save yourself some money and a shopping trip.
3. Take advantage of sales and tax-free holidays
This is likely where you will save the most amount of money, especially on big ticket items like computers. Also, hold off, if you can, on buying clothes until the end of summer. This is when all the seasonal clothing sales begin and you may be able to spend up to half of what you expect to pay at the moment. Labor Day sales are also great saving opportunities. With school years beginning earlier, this may not be an advantage to many parents, but if you can get your child enough to carry them through to Labor Day, you may find even deeper discounts.
4. Do not overpay for technology
Always remember to get your child what they need, not what they want. If you have a 5th grader, chances are you will be buying a new computer when they are in high school and again before they leave for college. Therefore, it is more advantageous to invest in what they need to get the job done at this stage in their academic development and save all the bells and whistles for when there is a greater need for the advanced technology— this is usually when they are about to pursue higher education. If you are still uncertain as to what those needs are, send your child’s teacher an email and ask them exactly what the at-home technology needs are for your child this upcoming school year.
5. Buy quality products
Children can be rough on their school supplies, so you want to buy durable products that won’t fall apart or need replacements in the middle of the year. This is especially true when it comes to backpacks. A cheaper product may save you a few pennies at the onset, but will cost you more in the long run when you have to repair or replace items throughout the year. If at all possible, buy products like backpacks and computers that will last a few years and not go out of style, season or use.
6. Comparison shop
Take advantage of price matching programs at stores, go online and see if you can find the same product for less, including the price of shipping, use all of your customer rewards that you can and make use of discount cards and coupons that come in your email or to your mailbox. You will find that you can save $500 or more combining these offers where allowed. It works for other types of shopping as well, but is ideal for back-to-school shopping and holiday gift giving.
If a store is out of a particular product that you know you cannot get anywhere else for less, always ask for a raincheck and be certain to use them before they expire. You will find that not only are they useful in helping you get the desired item at the price you want, but oftentimes, your wait isn’t very long and you will save time by not having to go from store to store to find something that isn’t exactly what you were hoping for.
Do you have any consumer tips that can help other families save on their back-to school shopping? Tell us in the comments below. You can also contact us for more information! Feel free to shoot us an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even connect with us directly on our website!
About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!