Saving on school shopping
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Though most students won't start classes for a few weeks, August triggers the psychological end of summer -- and the start of school shopping.
The average family with K-12 students will spend $688 on supplies this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Here are some tips from the federation to save money:
• Shop at home: While your child may long for a new box of crayons with 5,000 different shades, they likely have plenty stashed around the house. Check for leftover pencils and paper, as well. Last year's backpack, binder and other pricey items will do just as well for this school year.
• Start swapping: New clothes comprise the bulk of back-to-school shopping. Host a swap meet with other parents and kids from a variety of age groups, then invest in only a few trendy items. Check out online swapping marketplaces such as www.thredup.com and www.swap.com.
• Use discount gift cards: The federation finds that parents are increasingly using gift cards over credit cards to help their college students spend less. This is an especially savvy solution since you can purchase discount gift cards from sites such as www.GiftCardGranny.com to restaurants, coffee shops and department stores, saving up to 30 percent.
• Set a limit: $688 may be the average family expenditure on school supplies this year, but that doesn't mean you have to spend that much. Since kids will happily fill an entire shopping cart (or two) with "must-haves," make a list beforehand and stick to it. Those students with an allowance or funds from a summer job should foot the bill for extras.
• Head to a dollar store: Why pay $3 for a pack of pencils when you can find them for just $1 at a dollar store? You'll find planners, folders, highlighters, composition notebooks and more for $1.
• Buy during the right month: Many products are cheaper at certain times of the year. Jeans and computers, for example, are typically offered at the best prices in October, so it might pay to hold out.
• Be social and sign up for savings: Sign up for retailer e-newsletters to receive coupons and exclusive previews in your inbox. Also, check Facebook and Twitter for promotions. Avoid opening store credit cards for the added discount, however, since simply signing up can ding your credit rating. Plus, these cards typically have higher interest rates than your standard credit card.
• Compare prices: Compare prices using smartphone barcode scanning apps, such as RedLaser provide you with instant price comparison for brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers. Learn your favorite stores' price-matching policies, too.
• Designer goods for less: Consider shopping for labels at H&M, Kohl's, Target and other low-priced retailers. Students can get a designer fix without breaking the bank. Also, don't overlook consignment shops.
• Get rewarded: some companies, such as Staples and OfficeMax, offer great reward programs. OfficeMax offered $200 in MaxPerks rewards last year with the purchase of an HP or Toshiba notebook. Now shoppers can get $39.99 in Max Rewards with the purchase a new backpack and use the eligible credit toward other school essentials.
-- National Retail Federation
First Published August 9, 2012 12:00 am