BMO Harris Bank has seven valuable tips to help you become a more savvy shopper during the back-to-school and college shopping season. As parents and kids gear up for another exciting year of back-to-school shopping, retailers aim to meet the needs of consumers by providing them with various sales, promotions, and exclusive deals for school supplies.
“When it comes to their children, there’s nothing more important to a parent than making sure their children have everything they need, even in a tough economy — and especially when it comes to back to school shopping,” said Matthew Shay, President and CEO, National Retail Federation. Get ahead of the back-to-school shopping rush, and make this an enjoyable, savings-filled year for your family with these tips:
- Shop early: Many retailers plan to provide early back-to-school shopping opportunities to consumers. Prepare to shop at least one month before school starts, and be sure to purchase supplies on sale. This practical approach will help you take advantage of early promotions and discounts.
- Get creative: According to the NRF, more parents will ask their children to make-do with last year’s items. You can re-purpose many of your home-office supplies by allowing your child to personalize pens, folders and binders. Let their creativity blossom! If you have more than one child, find out what supplies they can pass down to their sibling. This strategy can help you eliminate items from your list.
- Compare prices: Take time to compare prices among competing retailers — see which deals meet your need in both quality and value. According to the NRF, more people will use the Internet to their advantage by doing comparative shopping online. “Retailers will offer shoppers plenty of ways to save money both in their stores and on their websites, including bundles, free gift cards with their purchase and even free online shipping on school items, aiming to attract value-focused back-to-school college shoppers,” said Shay.
- Look for coupons and sign up for savings: Coupons and exclusive promotions can help you save a lot of money. Be sure to check your local drug store and supermarket for great sales — they provide store coupons in their circulars. Online consumers can take advantage of social networking sites to receive discounts and exclusive deals by simply “following” or “liking” the retailer(s) of their choice. You can also get special offers from retailers when you sign up to receive their e-newsletters. Retailers are looking to attract as many consumers as possible, so take advantage of their promotions both in-store and online. <p
- Team up with other families:Families can shop together and save on back-to-school supplies if they choose to buy in bulk. In this case, more is less. “Big warehouse clubs will offer savings, but you have to buy a lot more than you can use, go in together with a few families and split it up,” said Jeff Kaplan, CEO and Money Saving Expert, LOZO.com. You can visit their website for printable school supply coupons. Make sure to keep an eye out for weekly coupon inserts in Sunday newspaper circulars as well as online.
- Rent textbooks:The average student spends about $1000 on books/year; however, students can save 50% or more buying used books online. Book rental sites give you the option to buy or rent, and usually provide free shipping.
- Set a budget: A budget will allow you to identify your back-to-school essentials. Make a list of what you need and can afford to buy now — and remember to follow it! If you can, ask teachers what supplies your child really needs. It may be tempting to buy everything you see, but aim to spend less than the national average of $688. Research shows that teenagers and pre-teens will spend more of their own money on back-to-school items this year. Give your child a certain amount of money to spend on supplies to cover any additional items that they don’t buy themselves. This tactic will motivate them to help you find bargains.
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