It’s August. Parents, you know what that means! Back-to-school shopping has commenced. As we near the end of August, many schools across the nation are returning to the classroom. Some may have a delayed start after Labor Day, but students in the US will be returning to class in the next few weeks. This is often a bittersweet time for parents. Their children are growing up, often faster than they expected, and the carefree summer days are coming to an end. Now that you have spent all your money on vacation, you have to spend money on school supplies. Just kidding, you knew school shopping was coming, but it seems like you are spending more and more each year. We want to help you spend as little as possible while still getting quality supplies. Here are a few tips for back-to-school shopping.

Shop Local

Local stores often have great deals at this time. Many back-to-school shoppers forget to look for deals in the smaller shops and opt directly for the bigger national chains. While you might save a little more, the local stores can carry harder-to-find brands since they specialize in unique merchandise. Also, don’t forget local thrift and consignment stores. While some children may be hesitant to get “second-hand” clothing, many consignment shops find clothes new with tags that the consigners never used. These clothes are also generally like-new and can cost up to 75% less than new merchandise.

Additionally, bookbags and other items are often new in these shops as they carry them for personalization. Monogramming and vinyl decals are popular right now. Local stores are more likely to provide these services to supplement their profits.

Coupons

Check out the Sunday paper just like you did twenty years ago when shopping with your parents. Coupons are also available online and through many national retailer’s apps. Some of these deals can also be “stacked,” such as Target’s circle, a manufacturer’s coupon, and Red Card savings. Target isn’t the only retailer to do this. Discover and other credit card brands may also offer cash back. Treat this as a coupon.

Cash-Back Apps

Ibotta, Get Upside, and Fetch Rewards all offer cash back incentives for shopping. Some are grocery or gas deals, but there are often school supplies on these lists at this time of year. So don’t leave free money on the table.

Brand Specific Apps and Rewards

Some brands like Under Armor will have outlet sales on their websites, but they may also have reward programs and apps that allow you to upload receipts for new purchases. This can earn you points for discounted or free merchandise. Stack these with other savings.

Gift Card or Free-With-Purchase Deals

Target is known for its free gift card with purchase deals. If you have a small child, you may have taken advantage of this with diapers. Other items also have these deals. First, stock up on toilet paper and paper towels when running these deals. You can send paper towels to school. I promise the teacher will appreciate them. Then, use the gift card to purchase more supplies. One family recently used all of their “saved up” gift cards from the last year and saved $145 on their college-bound child’s dorm supplies.

Honey, Achievement, and Shopkick

Use apps and browser extensions like Honey to get cash back or discounts on online purchases. Even if there isn’t a coupon, you can often earn points to use toward retailers’ gift cards. Achievement is similar, but you earn points based on walking and physical activities. Of course, these take longer, so you might not save money until next year. Shopkick also allows you to earn points for walking into stores, purchases, and scanning items. These points can be traded for gift cards using as little as 500 kicks. You can potentially earn that in a day with the right walk-ins and scans in stores.

Take Advantage of Price Matching

Many online and in-person retailers will price match. Some stores also have lower online prices than in-store, but they will match the online price. Some even offer a discount on the price match. For instance, Academy Sports and Outdoors will price match plus beat the competition by 5%. So, Under Armor is running the same shoes for $10 cheaper; you could potentially pay $10.50 less by using the price match guarantee. It may seem that an extra $0.50 isn’t very much, but if you save that on ten items, you already saved $5 and didn’t even use the other tips.

Office Supply Stores

Don’t forget stores such as Staples and Office Depot/ Office Max. They often have fantastic prices on paper, folders, and pencils. They also have rewards programs to earn free merchandise through cashback bonuses. Take advantage of all of these items. Then, stock up when things go on sale and earn your rewards to use for more school supplies.

Final Thoughts

You can use any of these tips throughout the school year. Many experts also suggest shopping on Sunday or Monday to minimize the risk of not finding the supplies you need. You can also find out when the deliveries arrive and shop on those days to ensure that you get to things when they are in stock. Saving money can be difficult. But, if you stack some of these savings, it really adds up. For instance, use GetUpside and Ibotta all year long. Cash-out just before school shopping. Then you start on someone else’s dime. Stack the Target savings with the gift cards and other savings, and you could potentially save $20 or more in one visit. Save those gift cards and use them during back-to-school or Christmas shopping. Buy extras of the things you will need for years to come when they are at a great price. Don’t hoard them, but buying 10 notebooks rather than 5 is not excessive. Happy savings.

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