Back-to-School Shopping: Smart Money-Saving Tips

Your kids may still be in the pool, but by now you’re likely thinking about back-to-school. According to the latest Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, parents will spend an average of $630.36 on their child’s 2015 back-to-school needs in 2015, including school supplies, electronics, and clothing. While this number is down from last year, families on average have been steadily spending more on back-to-school items over the past ten years – a whopping 42 percent more. 

Families interviewed for the study say they plan on utilizing smarter shopping tactics to tackle the cost of back-to-school items. And it’s no wonder: $630 per child for school basics can put a black mark on otherwise frugal budgets. It’s possible to cut that number in half – if you are smart and savvy in your school supply shopping. Below are five tactics you can use to significantly decrease the amount of back-to-school bucks you spend on your child’s needs: 

Take Stock of Current Stuff 

It’s time to clean out the closets and open up the drawers, and take stock of the school supplies and clothes you already have. Most kids come home from the year prior with a backpack full of unused paper, pencils, pens, erasers and more. Gather it all together, and see what you have and what you’re missing from the school supplies list for your child. With clothing, have your child try on their wardrobe, and use this as an opportunity to write down what still fits, and donate (or pass down to the next child) what doesn’t.

Order Online 

All major retailers have online stores – many of them with special promotions for back-to-school items, including discounts and free shipping. You can order items online and have them shipped, or pick up in a local store. You can also use sites such as Dealnews to help you find the best deals on kids’ clothing and electronics. Does your seventh grader need a graphing calculator? Shop online on sites like eBay or Amazon and pay half or even less than the amount a new calculator would cost. These sites are also great options for backpacks, clothing, shoes, and other larger-cost items. 

Buy in Bulk and Compare Prices 

When purchasing school supplies, it can pay to go in with a neighbor and buy items in bulk, then split the cost. Or, for items that are required year after year like paper, pens, etc. you can buy more than you need, and store away the remaining items for next year. Don’t be lured into one-stop shopping at a single big box store: you may find that some items on your list are more expensive than may be found at a smaller store or grocery store. 

Delve in End-of-Summer Deals 

While the tendency might be to shop early and get your school supply to-do list done, there can be great savings for those who wait until closer to the school year to shop. If you buy items too early, you may end up not needing everything once the school dust settles. End of summer sales are also a great time to stock up on summer clothing deals – clothes that your kids can wear in the first and last months of school.

Swap Items or Shop Seconds 

Whether it’s a neighborhood clothing exchange party, or a meet-up group online, pencil in a clothing swap event with other families. Don’t forget to check out your neighborhood second-hand store for gently used clothes – a bargain for kids who will soon outgrow whatever you buy them anyway. 

The smartest way to save money on back-to-school items is to do your homework about what you really need, set a budget, make a list and stick with it. Then, incorporate the tactics above to save big bucks. If your child joins you on your shopping trips or online, make sure he/she knows what your budget is, and make coming in or under budget a fun goal for them. You’ll be teaching your child a valuable financial lesson that will help them learn how to make the best educated buying decisions. 

Have you found a great deal on school supplies? Have some smart back-to-school shopping tips you’d like to share? Leave them in the comment area below. 

The fresh start of a new school year is a great time to introduce savings habits to your children. The lesson plan begins with savings and checking accounts designed for kids of all ages. Click here to learn more. 

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Hanscom Federal Credit Union
Hanscom Federal Credit Union

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