News & Trends

3 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

Summer doesn't officially end until September 21, but many kids around the country are wrapping up their last days of camp and pool time to head back to school. Whether you're a parent or a college student getting ready to head to campus, here are three money-saving tips that can help keep your finances in check:

1. Take advantage of tax breaks when possible.

Does your state offer a break on sales taxes for back-to-school shopping? Many do, and those school-related tax holidays are coming up very soon. Check out the details here to see if your state offers a sales tax holiday and what's included:

View State Tax Holidays List

Tax-free holidays are designed to provide residents with a little help during a time when expenses can rack up as parents get kids ready for school. According to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF), back-to-school spending is expected to reach $83.6 billion, an increase of more than 10% over last year.

2. Budget and stick to it.

Clothes and school supplies can add up quickly: The NRF survey also indicates that shoppers expect to spend an average of $688 on back-to-school shopping (up from $674 last year). If you make a budget ahead of time and stick to it, you'll be in good shape as you'll avoid having to charge up debt and pay off cards later.

Budgeting throughout the school year is important as well and emergency funds are always a good idea in case you have extra costs add up or need to cover replacing a broken laptop or getting new equipment when you take up a new sport. Deloitte's 2017 back-to-school survey indicates that shoppers expect to spend 10% more this year on clothing and accessories, but 4% less on school supplies and computers.

3. Look for deals.

"Scoring the best deals on back-to-school goods requires more than just clipping coupons - it means layering a few techniques, such as using rebate apps, shopping a store's key sale times, knowing which stores are best for certain items, and so forth," says Janet Alvarez, executive editor of WiseBread.

A few of Alvarez's favorite tricks:

  • Stock up in September, when items are on steep clearance, for next year's supply needs.
  • Buy used gift cards from GiftCardGranny or to save an extra 10-20% on top of any coupons or rebates you find.
  • Shop the local dollar store for essentials like pen and paper, calculators, binders, and clipboards.

In Deloitte's survey, shoppers indicated they are planning to frequent mass merchants and off-price stores more than last year, while fewer people plan to do their shopping at traditional department stores, office/ technology stores, and specialty clothing stores. Many retailers have back-to-school sales, so check out local stores and websites to find deals on what you do need to get. Some companies also offer special pricing for students, so make sure to ask or check their websites for those discounts as well. Some major retailers with special pricing or deals include*:

  • Amazon's Prime Student gives college students the chance to get its Prime service (which offers free shipping on 50 million items at 50% off) along with special college deals.
  • Apple has a special section for students with discounts and special offers here.
  • Old Navy has a variety of deals, with prices starting at $5 online and in-store.
  • Target offers deals on a variety of items and even helps with keeping track of your back-to-school shopping list.

You can also check out local Facebook groups in to find deals on clothing for younger kids that are usually in great condition since children often outgrow clothes before they can wear out.

Extra Credit: Make sure you're on top of any student loans.

This one is a bit longer term, but if you are a college student or a parent to one and you're using student loans to help pay for school, make sure you've done all the proper paperwork and know all the terms of what you're getting and when as well as what your payback looks like. Different types of student loans have different stipulations and the details are important because they can mean paying more money or negatively impacting your credit if you miss or are late on any payments. (See also: Student Loan Paperwork Snafu Could Mean Billions of Dollars in Debt Will Disappear)

While heading back to school often isn't seen as a fun, you can help make sure your wallet and your credit stay intact by not breaking the bank with your back to school prep.

(*Check the retailer's sites for all the fine print and details on what is and isn't included in their sales. Sales and programs listed are accurate at the time of publication.)

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
Sign up for helpful tips, special offers and more!
You're signed up!
Our system is undergoing maintenance and will be available again soon.