In 2020, “families with children attending K-12 [planned] to spend an average of $789.49” on school supplies, according to the National Retail Federation. Those with college students expected to “spend an average of $1,059.20” on supplies, both increases from 2019. That’s a lot of money!
As the end of summer nears, the back-to-school frenzy begins, and schools across the country prepare to open their doors for yet another school year, here are our top back-to-school money saving tips. If you want to secure those much-needed supplies without burning a hole in your pocket, read on. You’ll be ready to take on a brand-new semester in no time, and you’ll save some money along the way.
Do an inventory of what you already have. There’s no sense in buying more supplies if you’ve already got ‘em! Before you make your list and set out for a day of shopping, go through those storage bins or wherever you keep your old school stuff and check out what you can carry into this school year. You’ll probably be surprised with the things you find, and in doing so, you’ll save some money – always a plus.
Take advantage of discounts and deals. With so many different stores offering their own versions of back-to-school discounts, there’s really no sense in buying anything full price. Right now, Apple is offering free AirPods and 20% off AppleCare+ when you buy select models. Other stores, like Walmart, Target, Staples, and Best Buy, offer deals for school must-haves. Staples, for example, offers a plethora of back-to-school deals. Students can get deals on technology by showing their student ID, and customers can check out the Staples Circular for weekly deals as well as save 15% on school supplies using the Back to School Savings Pass. It also might be worthwhile checking out store apps. Target’s app lets customers browse available items, price match both app and in-store prices, and access Target Circle offers. You can even buy your supplies without leaving your couch.
Plan your shopping around tax-free week. Tax-free week is an excellent time to do your back-to-school supplies, clothing, and shoe shopping. According to the Real Sophisticated Consumer, “When it comes to back-to-school shopping, smart shoppers know to take advantage of their state’s sales tax free weekend.” Many states offer tax-free holidays during the summertime. Keep in mind, however, that some states may place limits on certain items or amounts. According to BlackFriday.com, Connecticut’s tax-free week includes “clothing and footwear priced at under $100 per item. Note that this limit is per item, not per purchase. You can buy dozens of clothing items totaling well over $100 at once and pay no sales tax as each item is under $100.” To determine if your state offers a tax-free holiday, when it is, and what’s included, click here.
Buy in bulk. Head over to warehouse clubs, like Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club, for all-things school. You can find supplies, technology, bedding, toiletries, and more. And while buying in bulk might be a little overwhelming – after all, where are you going to put everything? – think about how much money you’ll be saving down the line. Plus, when you see how much you’re saving, you’ll find a way to store all of those extra supplies for future school years (remember tip #1!). The only caveat is that many of these clubs require a membership. The good news, however – Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s offer tiered membership prices that are relatively affordable. It’ll be up to you to determine whether the membership is worth the cost savings (we think it might be).
Avoid buying brand new textbooks. According to College Board, college students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks. That’s a lot of money to spend on textbooks, especially considering that you might not even use them often enough to get your money’s worth. Instead, consider buying used textbooks and e-books from places like Amazon, Chegg, and AbeBooks. You can also rent textbooks, a good option if you like a hard copy but won’t need the book after the last day of classes. You can even rent e-books, sometimes the cheapest of all the options.
Leverage price matching. A lot of stores offer price matching, which all but guarantees you’re getting your desired items for the lowest possible price. Taking advantage of a store’s price-match guarantee for an item like a pack of pencils may seem miniscule but for expensive electronics and appliances, price matching is an excellent option. Retailers, like Best Buy and Kohl’s, offer price matching. If you’re eyeing a new laptop at Best Buy but are hesitant about the price, check out other local and online retailers. If Amazon has the same laptop for a lower price, Best Buy will match that lower price, and you’ll find yourself walking away with a brand-new computer. Keep in mind, stores have their own price-match policies with different conditions so you should certainly do your research. Here’s a list of some popular stores that offer price matching.
Check out the dollar store. Before you head to Staples and Target, stop by your local dollar store. You may be surprised by what you find and the prices you pay. Dollar General has everything from school must-haves, like notebooks and glue sticks, to over-the-counter medication, like Tylenol and Zyrtec, to quick college-approved meals, like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It also sells snacks, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and more. And while we can’t guarantee everything will be under a dollar, the prices are sure to blow you away. Consider making the dollar store your first stop. You might be able to check off most items on your list.
Dorm. If you’re heading away to college, Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond are all excellent one-stop shops for all-things college. You can find bedding, kitchenware, bathroom essentials, decorations, and more at many of these retailers. Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond also offer price matching. If you see something less expensive on Amazon but want to check it out in store? No problem! You’ll soon be on your way to your dream dorm room.
Don’t let back-to-school shopping add to your financial stress. Follow our money saving tips to ensure you get everything you need to have a successful school year without the added stress.