How to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that Americans will spend $82.8 billion on shopping for the 2018 school year. How much of that will be yours? Shopping for clothes, books, and supplies can quickly add up to a surprising amount of money, so Billshark wants to offer you some tips on how to keep your total down.

1. Create a Budget

Just as with holiday shopping, if you don’t set a budget in advance, you will spend way more than you wanted to. There’s no point in going broke, just so your children can go to school. Figure out what you can afford and divide the total among your children, then further divide that among clothes, books, and supplies. Avoid impulse shopping and splurges, because chances are your child  won’t end up using those items after all. Planning can not only save you money, but also time rushing from store to store.

2. Wait

Do not buy any items until you have the teacher’s list in hand, no matter how tempting the deal. If you buy too early and find out after school starts that you didn’t need the item, it may be too late to return it for a refund. In addition, after the crush of early school shopping is over, most stores will put that kind of merchandise on clearance, usually in September, so you can save a lot by waiting just a few weeks.

And before heading out, be sure to inventory what you already own. You may find perfectly good clothing or unused supplies from last year hidden away in closets or even scattered around the house. Also, if your state offers a sales tax holiday on back-to-school items, try to hold off till then.

Finally, if your kids think they absolutely must have a super-on-trend item, they may get to school and find the trend has passed, and their pals have moved onto to an even trendier item, so it’s best to wait till school starts.

3. Shop Outside the Box

Clothing, especially for fast-growing younger children, doesn’t have to be new to be perfectly acceptable. Yard sales this time of year are still ubiquitous, or you could organize a swap with other parents, not only for clothes but for unused supplies. Also check out Goodwill and consignment stores for clothing in good condition.

And don’t overlook the dollar stores, which these days feature a large array of school and office supplies for far less than you’d pay at most other retailers.

4. Shop Smart

Use any of the many price comparison apps to find the best deals, then look to some of the local stores in your area that offer price matching. Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy are some possibilities.

And though Billshark wants you to save money every way you can, realize that sometimes bargains can cost you in the long run. Be willing to pay more for such durable goods as backpacks, gym supplies, and shoes that will last longer than the cheaper versions. At the same time, don’t go crazy trying to save a nickel on a pack of pencils or a bottle of glue. It’s better to focus your shopping time and savvy on the bigger-ticket items such as electronics.

Think about buying refurbished electronics from reputable companies. If they’re certified, they are reconditioned to factory standards and will offer a guarantee.

Also follow a few of your favorite stores on Facebook and Twitter to get advance notice of sales as well as coupon offers. And see whether your credit cards offer rebates or rewards on back-to-school shopping.

5. Educate Your Children

This is the perfect time to teach your children about intelligent spending. Explain budgeting to them, help them understand how quickly all the different items add up, and let them learn about restraint (or disappointment, if you will). Just because they want several different electronic devices with all the newest bells and whistles doesn’t mean they need them for school.

Finally, this is a great time to submit your bills to Billshark and let our sharks find you hidden savings you can use for back-to-school shopping.

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