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August is here, and that means one thing for kids and parents across the country: school starts again soon, which means it is back-to-school shopping time.
Perhaps your kids have received teacher assignments, schedules, and even classroom supply lists. Compared to when you were in school, the lists of items your kids need may be twice as long and leaving you clutching your checkbook in fear. After all, back-to-school shopping season is the second biggest shopping season in the US.
But just because the season is upon us doesn’t mean you have to blow up your budget on back-to-school shopping. If you’re serious about snagging the best deals on school supplies and clothes for your kids this year, we’ve got you covered.
Check out the following 11 back-to-school shopping tips and get ready to score some serious deals while keeping more cash in your pocket.
1) Take Inventory of What You Already Have
Most parents naturally tend to start their back-to-school shopping lists with the usual school supplies: pencils, markers, colored pencils, notebooks, backpacks, etc. But just because it is a given that your kids will need these items doesn’t mean you need to buy all of them brand-new each year. In fact, chances are high that your kids still have many of these supplies left-over from last school year.
Before you head out to Target or Office Max, take an inventory of the unused supplies your kids still have from last year; there’s no use in buying supplies you already have!
2) Buy Quality Over Quantity
As a teacher with nearly 10 years experience, let me be clear: you get what you pay for when it comes to most school supplies.
You might think you’re saving a ton of money by buying budget pencils, for example, but they’ll most likely be ruined by the electric pencil sharpener in your child’s classroom. And you’ll be heading out to replace them with pre-sharpened Ticonderoga pencils quicker than you may think.
Don’t misread this: deals are great, but a solid back-to-school shopping plan also takes quality into consideration.
3) Wait on Items That Will Go on Clearance Later
When making a back-to-school shopping plan, consider asking your child’s teacher when certain supplies, such as calculators, will really be needed. If you can wait until certain items go on sale or clearance, you may be able to save over 50% on big ticket items.
This is especially true for replacing backpacks, lunch bags, and water bottles; if you can get by with last year’s model for a few weeks, you can score some great deals. Most of these items are highly discounted in late September.
4) Beat the Advertisers At Their Own Game
One of the most common marketing trick that advertisers use to drive up their profits during back-to-school shopping season is called a “loss leader.”
Simply put, many stores will sell common items like pencils, paper, and folders at prices which net them extremely low profits or even lose money. However, they make up for these losses by placing other highly-priced items on end cap and aisle displays (conveniently at eye-level for kids to see) and these items easily make their way into your cart.
Don’t fall for the “loss leader” trap. When you see these can’t miss deals at Staples, Office Max, and Wal-Mart, make a list, put on your blinders, and buy only the steeply-discounted items.
5) Use Coupons on Tissues, Paper Towels, Bags, and Wet Wipes
If you have kids in elementary school, their supply lists are likely to include a variety of paper products, bags, and cleaning wipes. And if you’re not careful, buying these items can blow up your back-to-school shopping budget in a hurry.
Whenever possible, look for coupons and sales on these items to save major money. And if you’re not already using the Ibotta app, be sure to sign-up and download the app before you shop. If you use this link you'll earn $10 after you redeem your first offer!
6) Redeem Rewards Points
If you have been banking your reward points at your frequently visited stores (think Walgreens), redeeming them during back-to-school shopping is a no-brainer.
7) Look for Supply Bundles
Not every school district does this, but yours may: be on the look out for school supply bundles which allow you to purchase all of your items directly from one supplier.
8) Hit the Clothing Clearance Racks at the Right Times
When it comes to back-to-school shopping for clothes, you’ll almost always get the biggest bang for your buck when shopping the clearance racks.
Most stores tend to have the best selection on their clearance racks on Tuesday mornings, so be sure to check out your kids’ favorites stores then. Most Old Navy locations also restock their clearance racks on Friday mornings.
9) Kohl’s Cash and Power Hours
Did you know at most Kohl’s locations, you can earn $10 in Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spend in store? Combine these offers with Power Hours and snag special pricing offers to really boost your budget; in most locations, hours are usually between 3PM to close on Fridays and 8AM-1PM on Saturdays. Prices are usually anywhere from 10%-25% more off the normal sale price. And if you can’t make it into the store, these prices also apply online.
10) Shop Online the Smart Way
If you’re going to do any back-to-school shopping online, be sure you’re positioning yourself to get the best deals!
First, sign-up for Ebates and be sure you run your purchases through their site. It’s one of the easiest ways to save money on purchases you’re already going to make anyway.
Not familiar with Ebates? Their platform is simple and user friendly:
- Shop online through Ebates at your favorite stores and you’ll earn cash back as an Ebates member.
- Watch for Double Cash Back savings.
- Collect your cash back.
Similarly, I highly recommend signing up for Paribus to make sure you never overpay for an item again. Once you sign-up and allow Paribus to gain access to your emailed receipts (it’s totally secure and safe), the service will watch for price reductions on items you’ve purchased and get money back for you on your behalf. You can get started with Paribus here.
11) Build Capsule Wardrobes for Your Kids
New clothing can be the most expensive part of back-to-school shopping for your kids, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Check out this helpful guide to building a minimalist-style capsule wardrobe your kids will love.
This post was most recently updated as of August 8, 2018.
What are your favorite back-to-school shopping hacks? Let us know in the comments section below!