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15 Tips to Save When Back-to-School Shopping

Dreading this back-to-school season? Here's how to get through September without breaking the bank.
Think Christmas is bad for your budget? Back-to-school season isn’t that far behind. The average family plans to spend $630.36 on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation. While getting your kids ready for school can be costly, there are deals to be had, says Samantha Gregory a savvy solo mom who shares personal finance, parenting, and personal development tips at RichSingleMomma.com. Dreading this back-to-school season? Read on for tips on getting through September without breaking the bank. See what you have. Most of us have items stored in closets and drawers that we’ve forgotten we have. “Take an inventory of supplies on hand before shopping,” Gregory says. “You may find that you need to buy less than anticipated.” Come up with a plan. Impulse shopping rarely pays off. In fact, 80 percent of Black women say being conscious of purchasing decisions is important, according to The African-American Consumer, a 2014 report conducted by ESSENCE and Nielsen. Create a list, then determine when and how you will get the job done. Figure out your budget. It’s important to have an idea how much you plan to spend. That way, you can set money aside and avoid using credit. Use previous years as a guide and work from there. Get your child involved. School shopping can be an opportunity for you to teach smart shopping strategies. Let your child help you come up with a list and show them how to identify good deals. Separate needs from wants. Separate your list into the items that your child must have and those that will make his or her experience more enjoyable. Once the needs are met, if money remains in the budget start purchasing the wants. Search for sales in advance. Waiting until the last minute can cost you. Check your newspaper and look for mailers advertising sales ahead of time. Download an app. Put your smartphone to work. There are a number of apps that can help you to compare prices and find the best deal whether online or in a neighborhood store. Check out RedLaser, Shopsavvy and PriceGrabber. Buy now for later. Take advantage of the back-to-school sales to load up on enough supplies to last throughout the year. “After the sales are over the prices of supplies go up,” Gregory says. Putting off purchases until later can prove expensive. Stick to a list. Write down everything you need to buy, and don’t veer from your list. “Do not be tempted to take advantage of other ‘deals’ and bust your budget,” Gregory says. Find a shopping buddy. Eighty percent of Black women will tell their friends about a product if they like it, according to the ESSENCE/Nielsen study. Take that camaraderie a step further by buying school products together. Sometimes you can get better deals when you purchase items in bulk. If you know your children don’t need 10 notebooks, partner with another parent, Gregory suggests. “Divide supplies equally so each family has a nice stash to last throughout the year.” Enlist Uncle Sam. Many states offer special Tax Free days to encourage spending in that jurisdiction. The tax savings you get from doing your school shopping on those days can add up. “Mark it on your calendar for next year if it has already passed in your state,” Gregory says. Shop around. It may seem easier to buy everything in one place, but you may not find the best deals that way. Check discount stores such as Walmart and Target, but don’t overlook grocery stores and even office supply stores during the back to school season, Gregory says. They all may have great deals you can tap into. Check social media. Retailers often post deals on their social media accounts. Like your favorite retailers’ Facebook pages or follow them on Twitter so you can take advantage of their offers. Pay attention to daily deals. Forty percent of Black women use daily deal apps, such as Groupon and Living Social – more than the general market, according to the ESSENCE/Nielsen study. Be on the lookout for bargains on school clothes and other items you might need. Reuse and donate. Everything your child needs doesn’t have to be brand new. Save money on used books at sites such as Amazon.com or organize a back-to-school swap where you and other parents trade outgrown clothes or other unneeded items.