Summer is coming to an end and it’s time for kids to head back to school. It’s an exciting time for both kids and parents, but it can also have an impact on your family budget. There a lot of things kids need to succeed, so we’ve put together six tips to help parents find the best back-to-school deals. So, whether your child is a first-grader or headed off to college, you can save a little money on the things they need to succeed.
1. Get Organized
Knowing what you need ahead of time is the best way to start. Create a list and set a budget. Separating must-haves from what you don’t need can curb unnecessary spending, and working within a budget encourages price comparisons to find the best deal. Organize your school shopping list by using a list management app like Simplist, which helps with list organization and storage. Teacher Lists takes things one step further and allows teachers to create and update supply lists for their classes. Parents can use this app to see what teachers recommend for their classes.
2. Do Your Research
Make informed choices about where to shop. While advertisements always make sales seem like great deals, you might score a better price on the same item at another retailer. Consider second-hand stores and garage sales to cut costs when searching for dorm room and apartment essentials like chairs, bookcases and other household items.
3. Online Shopping
Shopping online has its pros and cons. Photos aren’t always accurate representations of what you receive and sometimes shipping costs can add up, but going the online route might be worth it to avoid lines and save time. Online shopping may also cut down on impulse purchases, which helps you stick to your budget. Bonus: discount codes can offer shoppers additional savings.
Avoid the rush by waiting a little longer to do your back-to-school shopping. The best sales are held after the shopping frenzy dies down and the demand for school supplies drops. If you hold off until September, you might save big on new electronics because this is when retailers begin prepping for the holiday season and use clearance sales to unload their inventories. Ben’s Bargains found that smart shoppers can score huge discounts on clothing and shoes in August, so do your apparel shopping before you scope out that new tablet.
Another way timing can help you save is to purchase items periodically throughout the year – there’s no rule that you have to wait until right before school starts to buy things like toiletries, bedding and school supplies.
5. Refurbished Electronics
Need a new laptop for your soon-to-be college freshman? Consider purchasing refurbished technology. Reconditioned electronics are like new, and they’re often equipped with the latest software and technology. They’re also typically covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. These devices are often sold well below retail prices because of damaged packaging or they were returned and, for whatever reason, could not be sold at full price. Many stores, like Best Buy, sell pre-opened electronics at a discount, and the savings can really add up.
6. Mobile Apps
These days, there are countless mobile apps to make your life easier. Key Ring allows you to generate and maintain shopping lists, search weekly sales and store member cards and coupons all in one easy location. There are plenty of price-matching apps – like RedLaser and ShopSavvy – which let users scan barcodes to compare prices to other local stores and online while you shop.
Textbooks are one of the priciest expenses of the college experience, but there are cheaper alternatives to buying them new. Sites like Amazon offer textbook rentals, and college students could save hundreds of dollars by using electronic textbooks if they’re available . Additionally, most school bookstores will buy back used books that are in good condition and sell them at a discounted price.
Once you’ve checked off everything on your list, remember to update your home inventory to include newly purchased items. Unfortunately, college campuses aren’t immune from theft or other unforeseen losses, but many homeowners insurance policies extend to property outside of the insured residence for students away at school living in on-campus housing – usually up to a certain percentage of the overall policy. Be sure to check with your agent to see what’s covered when your college student heads off to school, so everyone can rest easy knowing their items are protected.