14 tips for saving on Back-to-School shopping
Your first test of the school year: How much can you save on back-to-school shopping for kids? (Fret not, though, we’ve got a savings cheat sheet to help save you big bucks).
First, a little statistics primer: Shopping for the start of the school year is big business. During the past decade, average spending on back-to-school shopping has grown 42 percent, according to the National Retail Federation. Last year, average spending on back-to-school gear (including apparel, electronics and supplies) totaled $630 for K-12 students and about $900 for college students.
Whether you’re shopping for a kindergartner who is asked to buy a box of tissues to share with the class or a soon-to-be college freshman who will be sharing a dorm room, here are 14 ways you can save on back-to-school shopping.
Buy supplies on sales tax holiday:
Lower your tab by skipping out on sales taxes. Many states will give you a day (or even a few days) when taxes are exempt on back-to-school related purchases including supplies, clothes and electronics. Check with your state’s revenue department to learn whether there will be a “sales tax holiday” and for additional details, such as the limits on tax-free items. The Federation of Tax Administrators has been tracking sales tax holidays in varying states. Here’s where you can find out if your state is included along with when the holiday will be.
Get Cash Back for shopping from ShopAtHome.com merchants:
Get the most out of what’s left of the summer. Avoid the crowded stores and back-to-school aisles and do your back-to-school shopping online. The added bonus? You’ll earn Cash Back to put towards, say, a family vacation or college savings plan for your scholar. ShopAtHome.com partners with thousands of merchants and when you become a ShopAtHome.com member (it’s free!), you can start earning Cash Back from the same stores you were likely planning to shop for school supplies, dorm finishings and electronics. Among the stores on ShopAtHome.com’s Cash Back roster: Target, Walmart, Best Buy, as well as Bed Bath and Beyond.
Round up supplies around the house:
Before you buy new pens, pencils, markers, notebooks or binders, take inventory of what you have on hand. Check your desks, drawers and closets for supplies.
Only buy what’s on the list:
Yes, there are lots of cute school supplies. (Hello, locker lamps!) But, make your budget and stick to what’s on the list and splurge on the extras if it’s in the budget.
Invest in a good backpack:
Look for a backpack that is built to last and that can be carried from one school year to the next. Check out Lands End for high-quality backpacks that your children can customize by adding monograms and embroidered icons including everything from a glow-in-the dark star to a basketball or ballet slippers.
Shop second-hand stores for sporting goods:
If your children are testing out new after-school activities and sports, don’t make a huge investment just yet in the gear. (Your eager soccer player may decide they want to switch to tee-ball after just a couple of practices). Find gently used gear and equipment at sporting goods second-hand stores.
Save on used textbooks:
Incoming college freshmen, get to the bookstore early and shop your reading lists. Bookstores carry a limited number of “used” textbooks, which are less expensive than new textbooks, but they go fast. You can also shop sites like Amazon for used textbooks.
Save on school uniforms:
Plan ahead for next year:
It’s never too early to plan for next school year. Come September, hit the stores and scoop up all of the school supplies that have gone on major sale and that you know are staples on your kids’ back-to-school lists. Be sure to check online, too, for notebooks, binders, folder, markers and more that have made it to the sale section.
Family members may want to help your soon-to-be college student set up a home away from home. Stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond are offering “college registries” which are akin to wedding or baby shower registries — except include dorm room staples like Dry-Erase boards and extra-long twin bedsheets. Even if their wishlist doesn’t get fulfilled, they can save. At Target, for example, students can score a coupon for 15 percent off their remaining registry items when they shop online.
Coordinate with your roommate:
College students, before you head off to the dorms or a shared apartment, check in with your roommate to see what all they’ll be bringing. No need for two toasters or extra door mirrors.
Save with free shipping:
If you’re a college student moving out-of-state, save on your shipping expenses and take advantage of free shipping deals. Schedule shipping of back-to-school clothes, electronics and household goods so that it arrives directly at your college dorm or apartment, rather than sending it to your permanent mailing address and then paying to ship it to your school. Also, check out ShopAtHome.com for free shipping codes.
Save with grocery coupons:
Once the school year gets started, print out free grocery coupons from ShopAtHome.com and save on all those brown bag lunches you’ll be packing for your kids.
Bookmark the Back-to-School savings hub:
Whether you plan on doing all your back-to-school shopping at once or are strategically spreading it out over the next several weeks, check in with our Back-to-School savings hub at ShopAtHome.com. You’ll find the latest sale information, Cash Back offers, plus up-to-date information from ShopBlog, with guides on everything from back-to-school fashion trends to information on the latest educational technology.