The school season is upon us, and the first lesson for any back-to-school experience is financial. Whether you’re a parent shopping for your child or a student buying for yourself, you don’t want to overspend on your school year prep. To help you avoid doing just that, we compiled a list of things you should and shouldn’t do while shopping.
DO: SET A BUDGET
Decide how much you can realistically afford to spend on getting ready for the semester before you make a single school-related purchase. You don’t want to splurge for an expensive tablet and end up blowing your backpack budget.
DON’T: BUY EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW
Retailers start pushing school merchandise early in the summer with catchy slogans and flashy displays, but the products are likely to be full-price. It’s better to wait until inventory has been sitting on shelves for a while. Sales will swell in late August and early September.
DO: SHOP SALES TAX HOLIDAY (Aug 4-6)
One of the best times to purchase school supplies is during back-to-school sales tax holidays. Dates vary by location, but if your state participates, you can save considerably on categories such as electronics and clothing. Visit dor.mo.gov to find participating cities and a complete list of tax exempt school supplies.
DON’T: GO IT ALONE
Checking off every item on your school supply list can be daunting, especially if you do it by yourself. Instead, get a lesson in teamwork by going in on school supply purchases with friends or family. Coordinate supplies by buying in bulk, then splitting the cost. Or synchronize schedules so you can share textbooks — buy or rent half the number that you actually need, then switch off.
DO: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
When it comes to packing lunches, brown paper bags might seem cheap – but in reality, the cost adds up. The same goes for sandwich baggies. Buy reusable ones and you will not only be helping the environment, you’ll be helping your budget! Sure, the initial investment is a bit more, but in the long run, it’s worth it!
DON’T: PAY MORE THAN YOU NEED TO
Before you head to the office supply store, consider less obvious places to shop. Your local drug store, grocery store and, yes, dollar store will be stocked with plenty of affordable school supplies. And if you do take a trip to the office supply store, don’t pay the sticker price without first comparing your options. Price matching is a helpful option to ensure you’re not overpaying.
DO: INCLUDE THEM IN THE CONVERSATION
Create teachable moments about money with your kids while shopping! Walk your littles through the process of comparing prices, turn finding the best deal into a game, and explain how buying in bulk and using coupons can pay off. These lessons can be key in instilling a lifelong respect for money.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of spending more than you have to during school buying season. But if you know how and where to shop, you can start off the semester with cash to spare.
How about you? What are your best tips for saving money on Back to School shopping? Tell us in the comments.