By the end of July, my cousins who are teachers in Indiana have already gone back to school. That means that if any of my readers live there, they are already in the throes of back to school shopping. It’s no wonder that state sales tax holidays get underway the last weekend of July.
Many of us on the East Coast and elsewhere will be there before we know it. This is true whether we’re sending our kids back to school for elementary school, middle school, high school, or, like me, college.
It’s probably no surprise that I like to try to find ways to save as much money as possible on back to school. Some of the ways I do this is by shopping throughout the year. I also tend to reuse last year’s school supplies this year, if they’re still in good shape. I also purchase school supplies from companies with lifetime guarantees, such as Jansport and its backpacks. That’s how my daughter Annie is on her second Jansport backpack. When that original Jansport backpack failed, the company sent us a free replacement.
These aren’t the only smart ways to save on back to school. If you find penny deals, like Staples used to offer, you should take advantage of that for stocking up. That said, you should definitely shop around. Research has shown that there is often a 50 percent price difference for some of the most popular school and office supplies. These popular supplies include:
- notebook paper
- security envelopes
- sticky notes
- one-subject notebooks
- two-pocket folders
- glue sticks
That said, you can use these tips to save on back to school and office supplies:
Look for store-brand supplies
They’re often not easy to find. For example, Walmart often doesn’t have any. But Staples does. If you find store brands, you can save as much as 74 percent compared to name-brand supplies. So this approach really does work.
Check out weekly sales circulars
There are a number of apps that can help you look at weekly sales circulars, right on your Smartphone. Or you can look at the ads that come in your weekend paper, assuming you still get a newspaper delivered.
Look for sales online
I’ve found that online prices for Staples, Target and Walmart closely matched those in stores. The downside to shopping online? When you don’t get free shipping, although that’s less common than it used to be. Even so, I would recommend starting all of your online shopping for back to school through Ebates.com. I love Ebates because it gives you cash back on every purchase.
Ask for a price match
Shoppers who find a better deal somewhere else should use it to their advantage. When you’re in the store, show the sales circular ad (on your phone or in paper) to invoke price-matching policies. In the past Walmart, Target and Staples have both had price matching policies.
Finally, one of the joys of sending kids off to college is putting them in charge of buying their own back to school supplies. My daughters are expected to use their own money to do this.
It’s amazing to see how many frugal tips my daughters have picked up over the years. I’m also amazed at how they’ve been able to stretch their dollar at the beginning of each semester.
In addition to using shopping apps and coupons to save money, they’ve found huge savings opportunities by having an Amazon Prime Student account. I recommend an Amazon Prime Student account for all college students. Maybe you, the parent, can spring for it before the semester begins. The savings your college student will be able to get are more than worth the price of the annual fee.