Did you know that back-to-school season is the second-biggest shopping season of the year? The average household spends around $500, and it goes up every year. But there are many ways you can save money on everything from school supplies to clothing. Here is a roundup of 25 tips to keep more money in your wallet:
1.Check what you have on hand, first. You may have unopened boxes of colored pencils, notebooks, rulers, or glue in your house. My kids have unopened boxes of crayons they’ve received as gifts, as well as scissors and other basics from last year that are still in great shape! Check what was leftover from last year and use it instead of buying new.
2. If you’re shopping with the kids, do a scouting outing first. Tell the kids you’re just going to see what’s out there without buying anything. Then make a list of their favorite items and get back to those after you get the essentials and there’s room in the budget.
3. Shop around! First, look for the loss leader deals. Watch the ads each week to see what the best deals are to get you in the store.
Stores that offer loss leader deals to get you in the store each week:
- Office supply stores: Staples and Office Max/Depot have items for prices like $.25 and even a penny. Watch for my weekly roundups of these deals!
- Walmart: They’re a low price leader with weekly rollbacks for brand name supplies.
- Target: I love pairing their deals with my RedCard 5% savings and Cartwheel app discounts.
- Walgeens: Most of their items are pricier than Target and Walmart, but they do have great deals on school supplies. Watch for great prices on their store brands.
4. Make multiple trips. You’ll save the most if you go a few times to get the loss leaders. In fact, plan on getting the best deals each week, check those off your list, and then get the rest of your items in the coming weeks when they’re on sale.
5. Shop early in the week, on Sundays and Mondays, when the sales for that week start and stores are still in stock of all the items.
6. Use an app to compare prices. The Walmart Savings Catcher app compares prices on your Walmart receipt with local competitors. If there’s a better deal than you got, that amount goes onto a Walmart gift card for you. The Amazon app lets you take a picture of a bar code to see if they can beat the price. ShopSavvy also has a bar code scanner to compare prices.
7. Consider shopping online for supplies at sites like jet.com. Jet.com has been growing and has comparable prices to Walmart. Plus they have free shipping for orders over $35. Check out some of the items I showcased on WCCO.
8. Take advantage of price matching at stores. To compete, especially with Amazon, some stores will price match, including Target, Walmart and Staples. Check each store’s website for their policies.
9. Look for coupons. Target mails out coupons to households. There are many school supply coupons in the Sunday newspapers in the weeks leading up to school starting.
10. Hit the dollar stores. We always buy part of our back to school shopping list here. My favorite is the Dollar Tree. Usually we get basics like filler paper and some brand name items here for cheap. We skip some items though like low quality, easy to break scissors and pencil cases.
11. Buy a basic laptop for cheap. A laptop at college is a necessity. but there are ways to get one affordably. Also, don’t get tempted to buy a fancier laptop than what you need. You can always upgrade later.
I recommend buying a refurbished laptop from a store like Device Pitstop in Maple Grove. You can get a great laptop for half the price of new! They have a wide range of laptops available and they include a 90-day warranty. Read about my great experiences buying laptops there!
12. Consider a refurbished phone instead of new. The latest model feels impressive to have but a 2-year-old, refurbished phone is probably fancy enough and way cheaper! Device Pitstop has a lot of great deals on refurbished phones, plus you can save with my extra coupon:
SAVE EXTRA MONEY at Device Pitstop with my exclusive coupon! Just click and print or show on your device.
13. Upgrade your computer instead of buying a new one. Get a new hard drive or memory instead. Sometimes all it takes is a new part or even a tune-up to make your computer run faster or even like new. In addition to selling devices, Device Pitstop repairs them as well so see what you can do with what you already have! Save 15% on service with my coupon above.
14. Pay for an extended warranty if possible. Most extended warranties are not necessary, but for electronics they’re worth considering. That’s because things like phones and laptops can easily be damaged, especially when they’re always being toted around from class to class.
15. Consider not buying a printer. Many schools include printing costs in general student fees. Check with your college if this is included and save the money. Though a basic inkjet printer can be fairly inexpensive, the inkjet cartridges will eat up a lot of money over time. Don’t spend the money if you don’t have to.
16. Shop secondhand. Our family enjoys shopping at garage sales at this time of year, plus we hit the thrift stores like Savers during their sales (especially their 50% off sales which they have often on holidays including Labor Day!). In addition, there are many great secondhand children’s clothing stores including a new one in Maple Grove called Children’s Orchard. At places like this you can sell your kids’ gently used clothes on the spot for cash and buy used kids’ clothes for affordable prices.
17. Try a clothing swap. Talk to friends and family members with growing kids like yours and consider just swapping out clothes that are no longer worn or needed. The adults may want to swap clothes too!
18. Borrow or buy textbooks used. Textbooks can cost a fortune if you buy them new. Avoid spending hundreds (or thousands) of dollars by borrowing or buying textbooks used. Look at bulletin boards around campus for postings, check your college’s bookstore for used copies or just go online to sites like amazon.com and buy them there. Or consider renting them, like from Barnes & Noble.
19. If you drink coffee, get a coffee maker. Buying coffee from the coffee shop or even the gas station can add up quickly over time. Get a basic coffee maker, or even a Keurig or a Ninja Coffee Bar (my favorite; above) and you can make your own tasty coffee instead of buying it from the coffee shop.
20. Go secondhand for dorm and apartment furnishings. Check out places like the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity ReStore outlets for secondhand couches, desks, lamps and other items. They’re cheap and all proceeds go to the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
21. Be careful with credit cards. You don’t need more than one and only for important expenses that you can pay back. Find one with a low interest rate.
22. Stay on your family’s shared cell phone plan. If you have this option, this could keep your service cheaper than going it alone.
23. Use your student ID card for discounts. Having that ID or even just a student email address can make you feel like a rock star when you’re looking for perks and deals.
24. Limit eating out. If you’re paying for the meal plan at college, use it! And keep snacks and beverages on hand so you’re not tempted to run regularly to the pricey gas station.
25. Don’t pay for entertainment. Don’t get cable – just watch shows via Netflix or Hulu which are much cheaper. Borrow movies for free from the library. Go to free shows or events on campus or in the area.
I hope this roundup helped you save some bucks – how are you saving money this back-to-school season?
(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Device Pitstop of Maple Grove, Minnesota’s No. 1 repair store and refurbished electronics retailer for iPhones, laptops, tablets, Android-based smartphones, game consoles, drones and much more! This post also contains affiliate links that help support this site at no cost to you. All opinions are 100% mine.)