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Back to School Shopping? How to Save Money and Avoid the Splurge

Personal Insights

During the summer, retailers have already kicked off back-to-school season. Back-to-school shopping is the second busiest time of year for retailers after the Christmas season, and stores have already started setting up their school displays. Implement certain buying strategies to get everything on your list without breaking the bank.

Timing is Everything

Don’t feel pressured to get every single item on your child’s supply list before the first day of school. Ask the teachers which items are actually needed right away, and then purchase the remaining supplies later, as you may find that many items are not really necessary.

Shop With a Plan

Set a budget for back-to-school shopping before you go to stores, and then figure out how much you can spend for various items on the list. If you have older children, this process can be a valuable personal-finance learning opportunity as well.

A clear list will help avoid impulse purchases that can easily push you over your budget. Do a quick inventory at home, too, to make sure you’re not just restocking on items like pens and pencils when you still have a decent supply left over from last year.

Consider using a price comparison app such as Shopsavvy or Honey to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal. Many stores, including Walmart, Best Buy, and Target, will match competitors’ prices, so you may be able to get the better price without even leaving the store.

 Tip: While online back-to-school shopping is easy, you may be able to save on shipping costs if you head to a walk-in retailer.

Skip the Office Supply Stores

Buying every item on a school supply list at Staples or Office Depot could cost you more than buying the same supplies elsewhere. Target, Walmart, and the dollar stores are good alternatives.

Costco and Sam’s Club are especially good for large families or multiple families that shop together and split up bulk supplies. However, it is not worth the membership fee for school supplies alone.

Buy Refurbished Electronics

Rather than splurging on a brand new computer, search for a certified used model from a reputable seller or go directly to the manufacturer. Manufacturer-refurbished goods will have been returned to factory-like condition and could be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty.

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