According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school and back-to-college spending is expected to reach $83.6 million. The best way to bargain hunt while back to school shopping this year is to plan ahead. The first day of school can creep up on you and before you know it, you're stuck buying last minute and spending more. Take advantage of the following tips to save money, be prepared, and have a stress-free experience.
Start at home
You might be surprised by how many supplies are already in your house. Look at what they have left over from last year that can still be used. Any item already on-hand is a bonus, so check the house for rulers and protractors, pencils and binder paper.
Stick to the list and your budget
Don't waste time and money on unlisted items. Extra supplies will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty. Use a list as an exercise in financial education for your children. If it's not on the list, don't open your wallet!
Use the supermarket for basic supplies
Check weekly ads for great deals on pens and loose-leaf paper, and get your weekly grocery shopping done at the same time. Buying everything in one place can save time and gas money!
Don't feel obligated to buy everything all at once. Shop at stores with price-match guarantees like Walmart. Within a week of purchase, enter your receipt number on Walmart's website (or scan it on the Walmart app). The site will search for competitors' prices from the past week. If a lower price is found, you'll get an e-gift card for the difference. Also, a lot of school supplies go on clearance in September as demand tapers off. Wait and buy some of the less urgent items at a later date.
Check out the Dollar Store
You can buy most of the basic supplies your children need for a great price at the dollar store. Folders, pens, pencils, even tissues can be bought at very low rates.
A new year doesn't necessarily mean a whole new wardrobe. If you have more than one kid, try hand-me-downs or check out local garage sales. Think about what you kid truly needs. Does your kid need a few new pairs of jeans, or can they get by with what they still have from last year? Also, be sure to check the dress code and follow it.
Use Social Media
Follow the social media accounts of different stores and brands to monitor updates and find exclusive deals. You might find a deal that is only available via Facebook or Twitter. Many companies send their followers coupon links and advance notice of sales.
Save Your Receipts
You may need to return or exchange items. Keep all your receipts and pay attention to the store's return/exchange policy for each of the items you buy.