It’s almost time to head back to school, and with this time of year comes a few expenses that can add up.
If you are trying to save money or are on a tight budget, you might be dreading back-to-school shopping. Many yearly school-related expenses are unavoidable, but in many cases, you may not have to pay full price. In fact, there are plenty of ways you could save money on school supplies and clothes for the fall.
Many retailers have back-to-school sales to help you keep the costs down, but there are also some other tactics that can help you reduce your spending. Keep reading for seven simple tips on how to save money on back-to-school shopping.
Tips for back-to-school savings
1. Take inventory of supplies you already have
Step one in saving on back-to-school costs is to look at what you already have on hand. If you tend to pack school supplies away during the summer break, it’s easy to forget that you already have some of what you need. This can cause a lot of parents to overspend and buy extras when it’s not always necessary.
You may have perfectly good school supplies packed away somewhere, either from last year or from an older child that you could reuse. For example, keep an eye out for stationery, lunch boxes, school bags, or last year’s school clothes.
2. Create a priority list
Once you’ve been through your existing stock of school supplies and know what extras you need, create a priority list.
List everything you need, from the most pressing to the least urgent. That way, you can steadily make your way down the list without buying everything with one paycheck. This strategy will also ensure you have the most urgent supplies covered before school starts.
3. Check for deals online
The great thing about online shopping is you have so many more choices nowadays. You’re no longer bound to what your local shop has its prices for textbooks and backpacks set at. Instead, you can head online and compare prices at multiple stores or even pick up second-hand items that are “like-new”.
Just remember to factor in delivery costs and waiting for the items to arrive. In the weeks leading up to the start of school, you’ll find that a lot of things (especially budget items) are sold out. So, it pays to get ahead and shop early for peace of mind.
4. Buy used items
You may not need to buy new back-to-school items every year. Instead, head over to your local thrift store or check local online marketplaces like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or even eBay for used goods. Be sure to follow safety guidelines outlined by each of those services though when picking up or buying items from strangers.
Great things to pick up include textbooks, backpacks, sportswear, extracurricular tools, lunch boxes, or other school supplies.
5. Buy during your state’s tax-free weekend
There’s a tax-free weekend in some states where you can pick up school supplies, clothing, and more tax-free. This is a great way to save a few dollars on essential purchases. Shops may be busy during this time, so you might want to head out early.
If you tend to overspend during sales weekends, you can curb impulse spending by heading out with a plan. Write out a shopping list and decide on a firm budget before you leave the house.
6. Use a cash-back shopping portal or credit card
If you already have a credit card that lets you save up points or earn cash back, using your card smartly for essential purchases could be one way to make your money go further. Just remember to be careful of overspending and plan to pay off any purchases you make on your card at the end of the month.
Another idea is to use shopping portals that let you earn cash back like Rakuten or Ibotta. Cash-back sites let you earn a small percentage of cash back for shopping through a portal rather than heading to the website directly.
7. Use coupons
Coupons might be time-consuming to collect, but you can save some much-needed cash by taking the time to find and save coupons. For many, gone are the days of clipping paper coupons from a magazine. With websites like Rakuten, Coupons.com, and Honey, you can save dollars here and there that can add up to significant savings over time.
Back-to-school shopping doesn’t need to be expensive
Many parents dread this time of year, knowing that they often end up spending way more than they planned. Small purchases and stocking up on school supplies can quickly add up.
However, with these money-saving tips, you may be able reduce that overspending, pick up some great deals, and it could help you avoid paying full price for whatever your kids need for the new school year.