If the giant displays of school supplies and general sense of dread from the kids didn’t make it obvious, the first day of school is right around the corner. But if you’re not one of those Pinterest parents who have had their back-to-school shopping done since May, never fear! We’re here to give you a few tips on how to save money while back-to-school shopping, even when it’s last-minute.
Check out these 12 last-minute back-to-school shopping tips that can help you save money before the first bell rings:
See What You Already Have
Before you embark on your back-to-school journey, see if you can check anything off your list without leaving the house. You may already have supplies like pencils, notebooks, or tissues laying around from previous school years or other projects. If your kids came home on the last day of school with 3 unused notebooks and 10 unsharpened pencils, resist the urge to throw them away for the sake of decluttering. On that same note, that $60 backpack that made it through the entire year looking brand new still has plenty of life left in it. If you can reuse it the next year, the list of items you have to buy will be significantly shorter.
Stick to Your List
Again, the temptation to go wild in the office supplies aisle could make this tough, but only buying the supplies you need is a huge money saver. So make a list of the items you need (and don’t already have), then check it off as you go.
Wait (If You Can)
That new winter coat or the recorder that’s part of the second semester’s curriculum probably aren’t your most urgent needs. So file them away in the back of your mind for now, then keep an eye out for sales over the next few months so you can buy when the time is right.
Although it may feel easier to go to one store and buy everything you need without a second thought – especially when you’re in crunch time – price comparison can save you quite a bit in the long run. Look online, check the retail apps, and be on the lookout for sales at local stores. If you’re shopping online, desktop apps like Honey can compare prices and find promo codes so you’ll never miss out on the best deal.
Shop Without the Kids
The easiest way to spend more than you were planning to is by bringing your kids along. They probably don’t want to spend all day shopping in the first place, but if they do come they’ll definitely ask for things that aren’t on the list – or more expensive versions of things that are. So take advantage of the last few weeks of your kids’ summer camps and sleepovers and shop while they’re away.
Shop During Tax Holidays
Waiting until the last minute to start your school shopping isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you live in a state that has tax holidays before the semester starts. Limit your school supplies and clothing purchases to your state’s tax-free window, and you’ll definitely notice the savings.
Consider Used or Refurbished
Gone are the days of pencils and notebooks being the only things the kids need to go to school. The rise of technology means tablets, laptops, and fancy calculators are often making an appearance on school supply lists these days. But instead of shelling out a small fortune for those brand-new electronics, check your local second hand stores or online neighborhood groups to get what you need for a fraction of the cost.
Pay Attention to Prices Even After You Buy
There is no worse feeling than finally making that big purchase only to have it go on sale a week later. Lucky for you, many stores have a period after a purchase where they’ll refund you the difference if that same item goes on sale. Need help keeping track of your receipts? We’ve got an app for that.
Buy Things That Will Last
Sure, the $20 backpack is much cheaper than the $60 one, but when seams keep tearing and zippers keep breaking over the course of a school year, those affordable purchases add up. Consider the value and longevity of your purchases before automatically choosing the cheapest option to save yourself from having to buy a replacement down the road.
Don’t Forget the Dollar Store!
The dollar store (ahem, dollar-twenty-five store) is an often overlooked, yet an extremely valuable asset when it comes to buying the basics. Make the dollar store your very first stop for all your last-minute back-to-school shopping, and you’ll be surprised just how much you can check off your list for only a few bucks.
Buy in Bulk
One of the best recommendations for how to save money on back-to-school supplies is buying in bulk. Pencils aren’t going to expire by next year, and it’s so much cheaper to buy a big pack of those universal items. And it’s the savings that keep on giving because you’ll be able to check that item off your list for the next few years of back-to-school shopping as well.
Use an App That Gives You Cashback on Every Purchase
No matter how many last-minute back-to-school shopping tricks you have up your sleeve, you’re still bound to spend some money. But fortunately, there’s still a chance to rack up those savings even after the purchase is complete – as long as you have your receipt.
With Receipt Hog, every purchase you make for back-to-school puts money back in your pocket. Just download the app and snap a picture of your receipt – paper or digital – to start earning rewards. The app will also store your receipts to make returns and budgeting easier than ever, especially for busy parents. Download Receipt Hog from the App Store or Google Play Store to start earning today, and then use those savings to treat yourself to a little something from the office supplies aisle. We promise we won’t tell.