For some parents, back-to-school shopping is a necessary evil. They look forward to sending their kids back to school after the summer break, but they dread shopping for clothes and school supplies, which can be frustrating and costly. With some careful planning, it doesn’t have to be.
Regina Novickis, a consumer savings expert with PromotionalCodes.com, makes it her job to know how to get the best deals. Her top tip for parents shopping for the new school year: Follow your favorite brands on Facebook. “Families seeking to save money should be on the lookout for online-exclusive sales,” Novickis says. “Many brands like Gap and Bluefly.com frequently offer exclusive discounts to their social media communities.”
Here are her other tips for saving money on your back-to-school shopping.
Shop at home first. Before you buy anything, search the shelves and closets in your own home. There are often treasures to be found, like a stash of pens and pencils in the dreaded junk drawer and perfectly good clothes stuffed at the back of the closet. Take inventory of what you already have at home and consider what you’ll actually need before hitting the stores.
Make a list and set a budget. Impulse purchases can quickly blow your budget. Create your shopping list and set a spending limit, then stick to both. Beware of new and trendy items as those may be the things that push you over your budget. Use your list to plan which stores you’ll shop at. You’ll save time and use less gas than if you leave the house without a plan.
Start early. It’s easy to get caught up in the laid-back mood of summer and not think about school clothes and supplies until a few weeks before classes start, but Novickis recommends planning further ahead. If you spread out school shopping over three months, your checking account won’t take as big a hit when school starts.
Shop online, too. Compare products and prices online to find the best deals quickly. This is another way to cut down on driving from one store to the next. Many online shopping sites offer free shipping to maximize savings, too.
Score savings with coupons. Clip coupons out of the newspaper, print them from a website, use an app to download them to your phone, or scan “smart” bar codes in ads for special offers. When you’re shopping in a store, you can use a free app such as Yowsa or Coupon Sherpa to download in-store coupons to an iPhone or Android phone. Sign up for customer loyalty programs at your favorite stores and watch for members-only specials. When shopping online, check for promotional codes for sites you are buying from. Both PromotionalCodes.com and CouponWinner.com organize coupon codes for popular online retailers selling clothing, electronics, and school supplies.
Ask for price adjustments. Store policies vary, but many retailers will honor a price adjustment if an item goes on sale shortly after you’ve purchased it. Make sure to save all receipts and check store sales weekly to catch these items.
Use your smartphone. When out shopping, use your smartphone to compare prices. Use a smartphone app to scan a bar code and find out whether there is better pricing online. These apps are usually free and help you get the best deals.
Stock up. Your child more than likely will run out of something during the school year. Buy extra supplies during the back-to-school sales, when things are cheapest. If your child doesn’t use it this school year, you’ll have a head start on next year’s back-to-school shopping.