Back to School Shopping
Although most kids are back at school now, it's still not too late to complete your back to school shopping, especially for clothing.
In fact buying in September has two big advantages. First, many big name stores are already cutting their prices and cramming their clearance racks now that the rush is over. According to Sean Fox of the Freedom Financial Network, those clearance sales don’t start until school does.
In fact, Consumer Reports magazine suggests you should wait until October or even November to get the best clothing bargains.
So, if you're into saving on back to school shopping, you're in luck. Frugal back to school shopping starts here and now!
Second, if you're buying school supplies like books, computers and stationery, you may not have the complete list of requirements until your student actually gets into the classroom.
All parents already know what an expensive time of year this is with back to school spending. According to the National Retail Federation, the average cost of supplies and clothing runs out at almost $700 per student, with clothing being the most costly part. In fact, it's the second most expensive shopping event for parents in the year as a whole (next to Christmas!)
So it makes sense to look for as many opportunities to save money as possible.
Back to School Shopping Tips
If you want to know how to find back to school shopping deals right now, here are some of the hottest tips from the consumer experts:
- Join forces with other parents to enable you to buy in bulk -- and get bulk price discounts -- from warehouse stores like Costco or Sams.
- While you're grouping together, how about setting up a swap "club" with other parents, so you can exchange clothing or supplies?
- Come to that, before you go out shopping for supplies, check what items you already have around the home. You can probably lay your hands on lots of pens, pencils and binders.
- Shopping at brick-and-mortar stores rather than online will help you to compare quality and value, and perhaps spot some on-the-day special bargains. According to a study by office supplies retailer Staples 85% of parents prefer to shop in a store for their back to school supplies, mainly because they -- and their kids -- can physically inspect the products they buy.
- Be wary when you shop in dollar stores. Items are not always cheaper than you'd find elsewhere or, if they are, the quality or sizing might not be the same.
- In fact, shopping around for best value -- if you have the time -- is the best strategy for frugal back to school shopping. Every store has what they call "loss leaders", items they sell at a loss to lure you in. Look out for those in ads.
- Current best deals, according to consumer specialist outfit TopCashback.com, include sneakers, tech gear, binders, backpacks and lunch kits.
- Always set a budget for your back to school shopping. This will help you avoid buying stuff you don’t really need on the spur of the moment. If you're buying for younger students, best leave them at home to avoid overspending!
- Use a credit card that provides some form of price protection, offering to refund the difference if you subsequently find the item you bought at a lower cost. Some cards also offer protection against damaging items after purchase.
- You should also check if the store you're shopping offers a price-matching guarantee, then go shopping armed with evidence of lower prices at other stores.
- Another thing to check: will the store refund the difference if they subsequently reduce the price of the item you bought? Don’t forget to keep your receipts!
- Don’t be afraid to buy used electronic items -- online or in-store. You can usually make huge savings and sometimes items are refurbished or even almost brand new with just a few scuff marks.
- Also, when buying electronics, beware of your student "over-speccing" their needs. Youngsters will always want the fanciest stuff around -- but you can save yourself money by fully understanding their actual school needs.
- If you can hold off on tech purchases until Black Friday (November 23 this year), you'll likely make even bigger savings on your purchases as retailers try to clear their shelves before restocking for the Christmas rush.
- Become a coupon hound. You can make big savings if you devote some time to clipping coupons from newspapers and flyers or downloading them onto your phone. There are quite a few good couponing phone apps, like SnipSnap, CardStar and ShopKick that are worth trying.
- Join store loyalty card programs. Often, you'll get an instant saving of $20 or more on your first purchase, or you could collect reward points that will pay you back later.
- If you're buying online, use price-comparison extensions like WikiBuy or Honey in your browser to immediately check if there's better value elsewhere. Likewise, you can install a cash reward browser extension from Ebates, which tracks your shopping and sends you a check for any money it saves you. Ebates is also starting to offer cash rebates in some brick and mortar stores.
It's a pity that California, unlike some states, doesn’t have a sales tax holiday -- usually a weekend in August -- but that just makes back to school shopping in September here in Southern California, a savvy decision.
Finally, if you have school supply and clothing items your student no longer needs, consider donating it to your school supply drive or to another charitable cause.
By the way, did you know that personal items you buy for your children to use at school are likely insured under your homeowner's insurance or renters insurance policy? Some policies will also protect high-value items like notebook computers and cell phones.
However, it's best to check with your agent that these protections are in place. If you'd like to know more about this type of insurance, please contact us at Aldrich Taylor Insurance Agency at 818-841-2940.