Last Minute Back to School Shopping Strategies
While your kids may be too busy enjoying the last few days of summer to think about returning to the classroom and retailers have already kicked off back-to-school season about a month ago – you may be dreading ‘back to school shopping’. But don’t fret - with Back-to-School shopping being the second busiest time of year for retailers after the Christmas season, there is still time to save before you send your child on the bus.
Follow these steps to make sure you get everything on your list without breaking the bank:
Wait to buy.
Don’t feel pressured to get every single item on your child’s supply list before the first day of school. Ask the teachers which items are needed right away, and then purchase remaining supplies later. Retailers become more motivated to move that inventory once it’s been out for a while and you’ll get better deals in late September. Do a quick inventory at home, too, to make sure you’re not re-upping on things like pens and pencils when you’ve still got a decent supply left over from last year. This goes for summer clothes as well. With warm temperatures lasting into the first few weeks of school in the North Country, it’s a good time to purchase end-of-season summer clothing. Wait until October or November to purchase fall clothing.
Take advantage of tax breaks.
While every store in NYS should accept our tax-exempt status, many don’t. But keep in mind in New York State, qualifying clothing and footwear purchases are always exempt from the state’s 4% sales tax when they are sold for less than $110.
Course textbooks purchased by full-time or part-time college students are also exempt from New York State and local sales tax throughout the year. Students can make qualifying purchases from any bookstore (including college or university bookstores) in person, online, or by mail order. If sales tax is erroneously charged, they may file Form AU-11 to receive a sales tax refund on the purchase.
Go shopping with a plan.
You have only a few days to get your child ready for school and still spend some time relaxing before the school year starts. Set a budget for back-to-school shopping before you go to stores and then figure out how much you can spend for various items on the list. Again, you don’t have to buy their entire wardrobe for school. Have them ready for the first day of school with a new outfit and buy a few key pieces to update what your child already owns. If you have older children, this process can be a valuable personal-finance learning opportunity. Having a clear list can help you avoid impulse purchases that can push you over your budget.
Shop the old-fashioned way.
While online back-to-school shopping is easy, you’ll save on last minute shipping costs if you head to a walk-in retailer. And besides, for you to get last minute deals – it’s too late to shop online, the “I need it before school starts” shipping costs will be substantial.
Put technology to work.
Use a price comparison app such as Shopsavvy or Honey to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal. Many stores, including Walmart, Best Buy, and Target, will match competitors’ prices, so you may be able to get the better price without even leaving the store.
Skip the office supply stores.
Buying every item on a fifth-grade school supply list at Staples or Office Depot could cost you more than buying the same supplies at a dollar store or whole stores like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s. The latter is especially good for large families or multiple families that shop together and split up bulk supplies. Note - that it’s probably not worth paying a membership fee solely to save on back-to-school shopping but if a family member already has a membership card, don’t be afraid to borrow it.
Among the seven large retailers analyzed for best shopping deals, Target had the best prices on school supplies and Walmart offered the best prices on back-to-school clothing.
Consider buying refurbished electronics.
Rather than splurging on a brand-new computer or phone, look for a certified used model from a reputable seller like Amazon or Newegg. You can also go directly to the manufacturer. Manufacturer-refurbished goods will have been returned to factorylike condition and should be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. Apple, Acer, Dell and others all offer refurbished electronics saving you money.
You should be able to find a laptop that meets your child’s needs for about $200, according to most consumer reports. Refurbished models are a good choice, especially for young kids who might be prone to dropping or breaking them.
If you want to buy a new product, you’ll get a better price waiting until October, when retailers tend to get new models and discount older merchandise.