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Whether your kids are learning from home or in the classroom, shopping for back-to-school supplies or college essentials is a big task, and it can take an even bigger bite out of your budget. While some items such as pencils and socks may not be expensive, the sheer quantity can add up fast. These back-to-school shopping tips can help you knock out items on your list efficiently so you can make the most of your budget.

  1. Do an inventory sweep. Ask your kids to round up school supplies at home. You might find a stash of school supplies hidden in desk drawers, backpacks and storage bins. If your kids are learning from home this school year, consider reusing or having your kids share items that are still in good shape. Perhaps you can put off buying new fall clothes until later in the season. That way, you can take advantage of end-of-season sales and your kids can still look stylish when they return to school. While school sports may be uncertain, you can still prepare by going through closets and sorting out clothing and sports gear your kids have outgrown. Doing this before you shop can help you identify creative ways to save money while making sure your kids are prepared for the school year.
  2. Set limits and track expenses. Back-to-school lists can be long, and your child may want to add more items when you’re shopping. Control costs by setting a spending limit and keeping track of spending by using a debit or credit card for purchases. Give your child a budget for items they wish to add and help them make smart choices regarding their limits. Also be on the lookout for coupons and share the task of clipping coupons with your child.
  3. Stick to a list. Although back-to-school preparation may look different this year, you can still stay on top of your shopping by getting a list of school supplies from your child’s teacher. For college-bound students, ask for a list of recommended dorm room essentials, technology needs and textbooks. Also be aware of what items aren’t allowed. Keep receipts handy for easy exchanges.
  4. Shop around. Check the local dollar store and thrift stores for deals on back-to-school supplies. Look for deeply discounted, gently used clothing, shoes and backpacks at garage sales and consignment shops. When buying new, compare prices at big-box retailers—they may offer hefty discounts on back-to-school items just to get customers in the door. It also pays to check for deals from online retailers—especially if you can get free shipping. For college students looking to furnish dorms or apartments on a budget, consider sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
  5. Take advantage of price adjustments. After you finish your shopping, save receipts and keep a watchful eye on prices over the next few weeks. If any of the items you bought go on sale, it may be worth returning to the store for a price adjustment. While it may not be a big deal for smaller items (e.g., pens or paper), getting the adjusted price for a big-ticket item (e.g., laptop or tablet) can be a major money saver.

Get Started Today

Shop with your Navy Federal debit or credit card and use online banking to easily track back-to-school expenditures. Find sweet deals for your at-home work station tech by using your Navy Federal Credit Card to shop our online Member Deals* at stores like Staples, Walmart and Apple®. With Member Deals, you enjoy cash back or rewards beyond what you’d get for purchasing in-store or from a retailer’s website, and access to exclusive special offers from your favorite stores.


*Rewards are subject to change and vary by merchant. Program excludes Navy Federal Business and Home Equity Line Visa® Platinum Credit Cards and Navy Federal Debit Cards.

Staples is a registered trademark of Staples, Inc. Apple is a trademark of Apple, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.