Household budgets: Finding back-to-school savings
It’s August, the “signal to parents across the country to kick-start their back-to-school shopping,” said Abigail Summerville in CNBC.com. Families with children in elementary through high school expect to spend an average of $688 per child on electronics, school supplies, clothes, and shoes this year, according to the National Retail Federation—about $14 more than last year. With costs inching up, “two things can help you save big: when you shop and which card you use.” A number of states have tax holidays this month that can save you as much as 7 percent on certain items. Choosing the best plastic can also help you score bonus points or extra cash back. Personal finance site WalletHub has compared the rewards, rates, and fees for more than 1,000 credit cards to help shoppers find the card “best suited to their needs.”
Many busy parents will head to Amazon for one-stop shopping, said Grace Donnelly in Fortune.com. But they shouldn’t assume they’ll get the best deals there. A study by Wikibuy, a browser extension that compares prices across the web, found that “people could save on average up to 15 percent buying school supplies online if they shopped somewhere other than Amazon.” Those willing to buy items from several different outlets could often find better deals, especially once they factored in tax, shipping, and available coupons. And there are plenty of discounts to be had at brick-and-mortar stores desperate for business, said Lauren Zumbach in the Chicago Tribune. The threat from e-commerce has led a number of big chains to slash prices and offer time-saving programs to lure parents to their aisles. At Staples, for instance, customers can upload a photo of a supply list and an “employee will prep the order for in-store pickup,” typically within 30 minutes.
A friendly reminder: “You don’t have to buy brand-new items every year,” said Christy Rakoczy in Mic.com. Binders, backpacks, and winter coats can all be reused, so “shop in your home first” before you head to the store. And for items you do intend to buy, keep an eye on the calendar: “Stores typically release coupons and drop prices on Mondays and Thursdays.” If you decide to splurge on a laptop or tablet, consider a refurbished or older model, said Lisa Milbrand in ReadersDigest.com. “You don’t need all the latest bells and whistles to do web research and write papers.” For basics like paper, folders, and pens, think about pooling your resources with other parents by “splitting a big order of discount school supplies.” Similarly, when it comes to clothing, swapping your kids’ outgrown items “for another family’s gently used treasures” could save you a bundle. ■