As summer comes to a close, it's time to start thinking about back to school shopping. For many families, this means parting with a pretty big chunk of cash—according to a survey from the National Retail Federation, families with school-aged children will spend an average of $634.78 on back to school clothes, supplies, and electronics.
If the thought of shelling out over $600 has you cringing, don't worry. Here are ten easy ways you can save a bundle on back to school shopping:
- Set a spending limit.
The first thing you need to do is decide how much you want to spend. Make a budget and stick to it. An easy way to avoid going over budget is to set aside cash and make a special shopping trip for school supplies.
- Make a list.
Making a list and sticking to it will save you from unnecessary or impulse purchases. If you’re not sure what your child needs for school, get a list from their teacher or your school district’s website. Many retail stores also have standard back-to-school supplies lists posted in their stores for easy reference.
- Find out where the best sales are.
There is no shortage of back-to-school sales this time of year, so there is no reason to pay full price for anything. Take some time to do a little research and read the circulars and flyers you get in the mail, and then base your list off of that.
- Stick to the essentials.
Even teachers will agree that some of the items on back-to-school lists aren’t really necessary. Often, the schools and classrooms already provide certain items like tissues and hand sanitizer. When in doubt, wait to talk to the teacher or find out from your child what must-haves you’ll need.
- Take advantage of price matching.
If you need supplies from several different stores but don’t want to drive all over town, gather your ads and coupons and take them to retailers who offer price matching. This will save on both gas and time.
- Use apps.
If you have a smartphone, there are great apps available that can help you find sales and coupons in your area. Try Yowza, the Coupons App, or Zoomingo.
- Prioritize your shopping.
Certain items for school, such as pens and pencils, notebooks, will be needed on the first day of school. Other items, especially fall clothing, backpacks, or supplies you aren’t sure your child will really need, can wait. Many stores will mark leftover school items like backpacks and lunchboxes down significantly to clear up space for upcoming holiday inventory.
- Shop at home first.
Before you start buying things, take inventory of the school supplies and items you already have. In addition to office supplies, reusing backpacks, lunch boxes, and pencil cases from last year are still in can save a great deal of money.
- Shop on tax-free days.
Some states offer tax-free shopping days, where certain school-related purchases are not subject to tax. This includes classroom supplies, clothes, and even some electronics. For a full list of states offering tax-free days, visit the Federation of Tax Administrators' website.
- Go solo.
You already know glitter markers or locker accessories are non-essentials, but your kids will probably try and convince you otherwise. You can avoid overspending simply by shopping alone. If your kids must have the latest and greatest in school supplies, turn back to school shopping into a money lesson by letting them use their allowance for supplies that are not on your list.
There’s no reason for back to school shopping to be unaffordable or to drive you into debt. These ten tips are surefire ways to get what you need for school while saving money.