Spending on school necessities for children in grades K through 12 has skyrocketed by more than 50 percent over the last 10 years, according to the National Retail Federation. While some increases are inevitable, five back-to-school shopping tips can help you make the most of your budget.
- Shop at the right places. The local dollar store may sound like the cheapest place to buy school supplies, but a lot of big-box retailers offer even bigger discounts—often even taking a loss on back-to-school items to get customers in the door. Take a closer look at ads for stores in your area. You’ll often receive direct mail flyers around back-to-school time. Be sure to also hit the search engines for larger retailer deals online.
- Visit one store and save gas. While it’s great to compare prices before you hit the stores, avoid visiting five different stores to snag the cheapest items. Your time is valuable, too. Running all over town wastes gas and adds stress. Instead, find a store with the best deals on your most expensive back-to-school items. Get the majority of your items there. Most retailers will price-match competitors, so bring a copy of ads. See if you can score the same price without the extra stop.
- Wait for the teacher’s list. Sometimes you think you’re done shopping only to find out you’re missing items your child needs. Perhaps you’ve bought items that aren’t quite what the teacher expected (e.g., a college-rule notebook). If you can, wait for the official class or grade list before shopping. Keep receipts handy for easy exchanges.
- Set limits and track expenditures. Back-to-school lists can be long. Your child may want to add items to the list, such as new shoes or a backpack. While some items such as pencils and socks may not be expensive, the sheer quantity can add up fast. Instead, set a limit on shopping expenses and keep track of spending by using a debit or credit card for purchases. Give your child a budget for items they wish to add. Help them make smart choices regarding their limits.
- Look to take advantage of price adjustments. Think your back-to-school shopping is done once you get everything on your list? There may still be opportunities to save money after the fact. Save receipts and watch prices over the next few weeks. See if the items you bought go on sale. If there are major changes, then you may want to visit 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.
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Looking for an easy way to keep track of your back-to-school expenses? Shop with your Navy Federal debit or credit card and use online banking to easily track back-to-school expenditures. Be sure you’re minding the budget.