It’s that time of year: Back-to-school shopping
Classes begin shortly for students, but there is something worth studying before the first bell rings. Doing research on what to buy for back-to-school can help save money. According to the National Retail Federation, which follows and supports the retail industry, the average household is expected to spend $685 on school supplies this year.
Back-to-school shoppers spend about $81 billion per year, the federation estimates. In addition to the dollars spent on clothing, moms and dads need to buy everything from sheets and lamps for their college son or daughter’s dorm room to laptops and printers for those high school students to lunch bags and headphones for those in middle school.
Via a nationally representative online survey of parents with kids in school, by wallethub.com, a website that offers free credit scores and full credit reports that are updated on a daily basis, one in three parents plan to spend more on back-to-school shopping than in 2018.
One in three also would apply for a new credit card to save 5% on back-to-school shopping.
Wallethub.com offers some back-to-school shopping tips:
Stick to a Budget
It’s hard to avoid overspending if you don’t have both a shopping list and a budget. So before heading to the store, make a list of what you need and do a quick search to see how much each item costs. This will help you make an overall back-to-school budget and decide how to allocate the funds. And that will give you a sense of whether you can afford to splurge on certain items as well as make it easier to avoid impulse buys.
It’s easier than ever to shop around for the best deals. So it’s worth doing, at least for big-ticket items. Similarly, don’t rule out shopping online for fear of shipping charges. More and more retailers are offering free shipping options. And you may enjoy the added benefit of shopping tax-free without being limited to a few-day window.
Don’t Go Overboard on Electronics
Kids these days have access to more types of electronics than ever before, and it’s easy for a young person to convince themselves that they need each of these toys. They may even try to convince you that they’ll use the computers, tablets, smart watches, and even video games to learn rather than for games and social media. Your job is to bring some discipline to the back-to-school process. Some popular electronics do have academic applications, but make sure not to acquiesce to every request. Perhaps choose to give your child one of the things they have their eye on, but maybe for their birthday or the holidays, rather than giving them instant gratification.
Buying the “latest” goods — from the computers to clothing styles — is a great way to overspend. Saving is the name of the game at back-to-school time, so concentrate on things that were “hot” — last year. Such items will have cheaper starting prices and are more likely to be on sale as well. All you’ll need to do is convince your children that vintage is cool.
Make One Trip
Buying everything you need for the new school year in one fell swoop will help reduce the stress and time involved in the process. Doing so will also help you take full advantage of sales tax holidays as well as the one-time discounts that many store cards offer. Keep in mind that we mean you should make only one trip to a physical store. Shopping online is more accessible and can be used to supplement anything you may forget.
Buy in Bulk
Looking way ahead can pay extra big dividends. So what school supplies will your child need throughout the whole year? Buying more now will likely get you better prices overall, considering that back-to-school sales don’t last all year.
Save for College
Why not use back-to-school season as an annual reminder to contribute money to your child’s college fund and evaluate your saving progress? After all, it’s the best gift you could give your child, both educationally and economically speaking. For a complete breakdown of the best ways to save for college, check out our guide to college savings funds.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .