back to school purchases

These back-to-school shopping tips can help you avoid overspending on school supplies, buying duplicate items, and teaching kids smart financial strategies.

From back-to-school supplies to dorm room essentials, stocking up for the new school year can put a strain on any budget . Start with your child’s school to see if they have a school supply list to help you stay on track. Then consider these simple back-to-school shopping tips to help you plan smart and cut costs.

Simple tips to save on back to school

  • Reserve a central place for school supplies: Take a plastic container or use the dining room table to put the supplies as you go shopping. Before you go shopping, make a back-to-school shopping list (or use the supply list provided by your child’s school) to make sure you don’t end up with duplicate items.
  • Stock up in the off-season:  Many retailers mark down school supplies weeks after the back-to-school shopping season. Get deals on fashion items, this year’s must-haves, and stock up on basics like glue and paper for years to come.
  • Take a look at what you might already have: You’ll be amazed at what you can find in kitchen utensil drawers, desks, closets, and basements. Also, look at the school supplies left over from the previous year because you might be able to reuse some.
  • Plan a supply swap: If you end up with some duplicate items, trade them with friends who might need them. To help those in need , perhaps consider donating extra school supplies to local schools or shelters.
  • Set a budget and stick to it:  Determine how much money you can spend, and then weigh needs versus wants. Check supply lists before you head to the store and write down what you already have. Include your kids in the process to teach them a valuable budgeting lesson.
  • Look for deals:  Shop the Sunday paper to check out weekly ads for the best savings and clip coupons on school supplies. Follow your favorite stores on social media to stay up to date with sales, or use a free app like RetailMeNot to find coupons for specific stores. Take advantage of price matching offered by many stores or look for deals at local supermarkets.
  • Tax-free shopping:  Some states offer tax-free holidays during the back-to-school season.  See if your state participates .
  • Shop online safely: Shopping online adds convenience and the potential for additional savings. If you’re going to order online, consider these simple tips:
    • Use trusted and secure websites with “https” and a padlock symbol in the address bar.
    • Pay online with your credit card instead of debit card. Credit cards usually have additional protections against fraudulent charges.
  • Consider buying high-quality items: You may want to consider investing in high-quality backpacks, lunch boxes, or other items that have warranties in case you need to replace them during the school year. Think about buying a reusable lunch box that helps our planet in the process .