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11 ways to save on back-to-school shopping

Home Blog11 ways to save on back-to-school shopping

Key takeaways:

  • By dedicating a little extra time, you can save money on your back-to-school shopping.  
  • Buying what you need rather than what your kids want will go a long way toward saving money during your back-to-school shopping.  
  • Many stores offer sales and price-match guarantees, so a little research can pay off.  

Can you believe it’s already back-to-school time? Another school year is around the corner. Are you ready to shop for new school supplies and everything else your child needs to start the year on the right foot?

In 2018, Deloitte estimated that 29 million U.S. households would spend a total of $27.6 billion on back-to-school shopping – an average of $510 per household.

That’s quite a bit of money – especially when you consider your kids will quickly need new items and grow out of the clothes you purchase. So how can you lower that average? Here are a few tips from our MidWestOne bankers to help you save money when back-to-school shopping:

1. Make a budget

Before you start shopping, figure out how much you can realistically spend. A budget can help you do exactly that, and if you don’t have one, we have tips for starting one.

Once you decide how much you can spend without taking away from your monthly expenses and necessities, mark that number as a clear cap that can’t be raised. Discuss this number with your kids and explain the importance of not going over it. You don’t want last-minute protests from your child about a backpack they “need.”

2. Get the official school list

Another must-do before shopping is acquiring the official school supply list for your kid. Each school and grade is different, so be sure to look at the school’s website to get this before you go to the store. This will help you focus on the items your child actually needs.  

3. Take inventory

What do you already have? Your kids likely ended the school year with a hodge-podge of supplies. Plus, you likely have a variety of items around the house. Figure out what your kids can use again and mark those off the list. It doesn’t make sense to buy more notebooks when your kids already have barely used ones.

4. Shop around

One store will have cheap folders while the other has the best deal on backpacks. After noting the cost of gas to drive to these places, decide if it’s worth it to get your items at multiple places or at least a few different stores. Even better, if you can get the items you need online, you can save on gas money and get the best deals at each place.

5. Buy used

Thrift stores and used bookshops can save you a ton of money. Look at how used the items are before purchasing. Sometimes you can find ones that are barely used at only a fraction of the price. If you have a child entering college, buying used books will be especially helpful to save money. The earlier you can do this, the better, so you can find the items with less wear. 

6. Utilize the tax-free weekend

Many states host tax-free days or weekends. Saving 3-8 percent on your supplies can go a long way toward decreasing the total you spend. Just beware that stores will be crowded then, so bring your patience.

7. Decide if you’re bringing the kids

On one hand, it can be helpful to have your kids there to each keep track of their lists and what they need. On the other hand, that can turn into over-shopping as they add to their list with what they want – not need. Shopping alone may be the way to go. Decide what your kids can realistically handle. If the budget conversation is going to turn into a constant battle, it may be better to shop alone.

8. Watch for sales

Look at the ads and follow stores on social media to see when the supplies you need go on sale. You want to get the best prices, so being vigilant is key. A good way to know if you’re getting the best price is to start looking at the key items you need. This will help you recognize the best deal when it arises.

9. Use price matching

Many stores offer price match guarantees. By knowing the prices, you can get the lowest price without traveling to another store and losing that gas money and time.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Think about saving money on the big-ticket items rather than the smaller ones. A few cents saved on markers likely won’t be worth the cost of making a special trip. However, getting half-off on a lunchbox or new sneakers for your child will be worth that extra attention to price. Save your energy for the bigger items, and those can make up for the smaller items that were a few cents more at a different store.

11. Wait on new clothes

Retailers understand that many families are shopping for back-to-school, and clothes are typically regular-priced during this time. Try to hold off on buying new clothes until September when the prices are likely to decrease.

With a little motivation and extra time, you can save money on your back-to-school shopping. If you have questions about how you can save money in the short-term and long-term, visit your local MidWestOne branch.

MidWestOne Bank does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.