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The Back-to-School Shopping Hacks You Need

Back-to-school has become its own shopping season, second only to Christmas in terms of family expenditures. Even in remote or hybrid learning environments, we’re seeing school expenses run into the thousands of dollars. For some, that’s as much as or more than a mortgage payment! A recent Deloitte study projected even more back-to-school spending increases for 2021 — especially for supplies like technology and COVID-related supplies (such as personal hygiene and at-home desk setups). 

One of the things we get asked about as Mortgage Bankers is how to budget and save for unexpected expenses.

Here are top hacks for families looking to become more savvy back-to-school shoppers this year:

  • Shop for school supplies on Sundays and Mondays. Weekly back-to-school sales normally start Sunday mornings, and supplies run out fast! Bonus: you’ll typically find Target and Old Navy clothing markdowns hit the stores on Mondays. 
  • Put your Dollar Store to work. From brand names to generic, the Dollar Store often has some of the best prices (and coupons) for getting basic supplies at a steal. And several items, like Bic Pens, have manufacturer coupons that give you a freebie.
  • Check aggregate coupon sites for the best deals from around the web and in-store. For example, The Krazy Coupon Lady collects the biggest back-to-school savings from a host of stores and shares updates with coupons here
  • Don’t forget apps. Before making supply purchases at Target, download their app, which gives you access to a host of offers. And the app ShopSavvy allows you to compare prices across retailers — simply scan the barcode of the item you’re interested in, and the app will tell you if that product is cheaper at another store. If you download the Amazon app, you can do real-time price checks while you’re in the store. Bonus: installing browser extensions like the Capital One Shopping extension or the Honey Extension, which automatically finds and applies promo codes at online checkouts, can help you save big bucks. 
  • Involve your kids. How do you handle kids wanting brand-name or more expensive versions of their supplies if you’ve already set up spending limits? Encourage them to contribute by doing yard work or tasks around the neighborhood, or setting up a car wash or lemonade stand. Not only will this help teach kids about working for what they want and being active participants in the family budget — it might also help them reassess what they consider to be “must-haves.” 
  • Do a supply sweep. Not everything needs to be new! You probably already have some school supplies lying around your house. Set aside some time to check closets, drawers, and storage bins and round up supplies. Put them in a central place so you can make a list of what you already have. 
  • Pool supplies. Coordinate with friends and family who have school-aged children and see if they’d like to buy certain items in bulk and at discounted prices from places like Costco, that the group can share. This could be especially handy for items like hand sanitizers and wipes.   
  • Shop at garage sales and thrift stores. Though it may take a little more time and effort, garage sales, thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace can offer great discounts for some of the more expensive back-to-school supplies such as backpacks, shoes, computers and clothing. 
  • Get crafty. Craft stores like JOANN or Michael’s have a host of weekly coupons, easily accessible on their apps, that make staples like markers, pens, and paints more affordable. These stores also allow multiple couples per transaction, as long as the coupons don’t apply to the same item. Stack those sales!

The best way to save money on back-to-school shopping is to plan ahead so you can take advantage of every deal and coupon that comes your way. All set and well-budgeted for school expenses this year? Consider donating to teachers or classrooms that are short on supplies through platforms like Donors Choose.

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