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Back-to-school Shopping Tips – What not to buy!

Back-to-school Shopping Tips – What not to buy!
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Shool-Supply-IslesIt’s that time of the year again, summer is almost over for many of us and time to go back to school.   As we finish off our last activities for the Summer Break 2015, Parents are now scrambling to complete their Back-to-school shopping.  In South and Central, most schools open in the 1st or 2nd week in August and the other follow shortly after. Some private schools are looking to open later but majority follow their local ISD schedules.  Unless your kids go to a school that provide supplies (some private schools do) or provide an option to buy a “School Supplies Bundle” and uniforms, you are stuck shopping for school supplies in the next two weeks.

Recent research by NRF(National Retail Federation) found that most American families with school kids will spend about 42% more on back-to-school supplies in 2015 than they did just a decade ago.

In addition, total spending on back-to-school shopping is expected to hit nearly $25 billion this year and on average a family with school-age kids is expected to spend about $630.36 on school supplies, backpacks, laptop/electronics and uniform/clothes for school this year.

NRF-Back-To-School-Spending-Charts
Courtesy: NRF ; full report on NRF.com

 

As parents look to head to the stores for back to school shopping, we have compiled a list to help save some money on their next shopping trip. Savvy shoppers are always on the look out for the best deals and bargains, and there are plenty available for back to school. This is by no means a comprehensive list but a starting point for anyone looking to save some money this year on school supplies.

School Uniform –  Shop early for school uniform as most uniform specialty stores often run sales prior to the back to the school rush. Sales typically run in the months of June and December, so if you missed the June sale and your kids can get by using their uniform from last year, you may want to wait for the uniforms to go on sale again in December or buy a limited quantity till you find them on sale.

school-uniform
School Uniform

A good alternative maybe to shop online at stores like Academic Outfitters, French  Toast, ParkerSU etc. which may offer special sales for back to school or coupon codes occasionally for some extra savings.

Clothing and Shoes – If your kids go to a school that doesn’t have school uniform requirements (most public school don’t), you can shop at your local store like Walmart, Kmart, Kohl’s, Target, Old Navy etc.  Kids outgrow clothes and shoes quickly, so don’t spend on name brand clothing and stick with your local off brands or store brands. You will likely need to buy more clothes mid year anyway, so plan ahead and save some money for later.

Textbooks – Textbooks don’t often change and are usually provided by the school. If you are required to buy text book, check with your friends/neighbors and chances are you can find some one who has a kids who was in the same grade as you kid last year. You can always hit stores like Half Price Books or Thrift Books to purchase a used book at a much lower price.  Some online like  Amazon, Better World, BooksAmillion (BAM), etc. can also be a good place to shop for new or used books.   Another excellent alternative is to rent books, websites like CampusBookRentals.com or Rentbooks.com offer great prices on book rentals and you save up to 95% on your textbook expenses.  You can also get some cash if you can sell your old textbooks, online stores like BookByte.com offer Buy, Sell or Rent options!

School Supplies List
School Supplies List

School Supplies List – Lets not forget the importance of having a school supplies list. Most schools provide a school supplies list, but if you don’t have one there a plenty available online that will get you started. You can also find it out using Amazon School List tool or even create your own. Always contact the teacher to make sure you are buying the correct type and quantity of supplies, some teachers are very picky and if you want to be sure maybe you can wait on specialty items (e.g. for arts, maths, science etc.) on the list  till you meet you kids teacher during back to school open house or contact them via email or phone and confirm the list.

Electronics – Calculators, Laptops, iPads, Printers etc. can wait till later in the school year. You can find great prices on electronics online or even at you local store if you can catch them on sale.   Companies like Dell, Lenovo, Acer etc. offer huge discount pricing during the back to school season on laptops, printers and compute accessories.  There are always online coupon codes available that can bring down the prices even more so don’t forget to checkout these stores online before you purchase any electronics for your kids.

Backpacks & Lunch Boxes – Backpacks and lunch boxes are typically something where people splurge the most as kids always want the latest action hero or their favorite Disney movie character on them.  Don’t rush into buying these before hand, if can get the best prices on these items after the first week of school is over as retailers stock up for the back-to-school rush and reduce prices on these items to clear stock and make room for the next seasonal item.

Backpack Set Minions
Backpack Set Minions

An alternative options maybe to shop online where you can price compare and find a better prices for items that may not even be available to the store. With a larger selection online, your kids may settle for something easier on your wallet. Online bag stores like eBags.com, typically run back-to-school sales where you can pay much less than MSRP.   You can couple these saving along with available online coupons for eBags.com and save even more.

Sports Apparels and Gear – This should be the last item on your list, many coaches provide a list and a preferred store/brand, so you would to want to wait a couple of weeks to purchase these items.  Some coaches prefer to order them online or through the school as bulk order that is usually cheaper than ordering them individually.  If you are pressed to purchase them, shop online for best deals, try Holabird.com

TAX-FREE Weekend – Buy and pay no sales tax during tax-free weekends, that’s on average 7-9% savings based on your state of residence. Tax-free shopping holidays typically 2 or 3 days that start at 12:01 am and ends at midnight.  Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia have their 3-day tax-free holiday from Aug 7-9 in 2015. Iowa and Louisiana have a 2-day tax-free holiday on Aug 7,8 in 2015.  Connecticut is 7-day from Aug 16-22 and Maryland is also 7-days from Aug 9-15.

Tax-free Weekend
Tax-free Weekend

This is not a comprehensive list but if you search for “Tax-free holiday <state name>”, you will find your state information easily.  Don’t miss on this excellent opportunity to save on sales tax.  If your state of residence doesn’t offer “tax-free holiday” and you live close to another state, you may consider making the drive to take advantage of this as well.

So there you have it, our best tips to save this year on back-to-school shopping.   Don’t forget to get updated Vaccination records and/or getting the kids all required vaccines/shots before the start of new school syear. Many Independent School Districts (ISDs) will require the updated records before the first day of school or on the first day.  All students 5 years of age typical Kindergarten (KG) are required to get their booster shots for Chickenpox, Polio, DTaP and MMR. Seventh-grade students (age 12) should have their  MCV, Tdap and HPV vaccines before school starts. Many local cities and counties sponsor back-to-school vaccination clinics.  Take advantage of those as most often there is no out-of-pocket cost if you have insurance or very low charge, the savings add up especially if you have more than one school going kids. In most counties, children under the age of 18 that don’t have active health insurance and/or parents/guardian are unable to pay for vaccines, could also qualify for federally funded VFC (vaccines for children) program and eligible for free vaccines with minor administrative fee.

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