Back-to-School Smart Shopping Tips

August 13, 2012

Back-to-School Smart Shopping Tips

School bells will be ringing before we know it, and many families will be taking advantage of annual back-to-school specials on supplies. Whether you plan to shop at your favorite retail store, a consignment shop, and/or in the drawers and closets of your own home, Better Business Bureau recommends sticking to a budget to avoid the common overspending on school supplies and clothing.

According to the National Retail Federation, parents will be shopping carefully and making special efforts to save on supplies this school year. 31% of families say they will do comparative shopping online (compared to 29.8% last year), and they will use more coupons (38.7% vs. 36.9%), and cut back on extra-curricular activities or sports (14.3% vs. 10.2%).

“Many retailers offer back-to-school “freebies” to entice shoppers -coupons, deals, and giveaways are always nice - but make sure you actually need the items first”, said MecheleAgbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “You may not need to spend extra money on new supplies if all it takes is a good sharpening or tearing out a few used pages from the previous year.”

BBB recommends considering the following when it comes to back-to-school shopping:

Take inventory. There’salways that endless supply of makers, crayons and notebooks around the house. Reusing these items can save hundreds of dollars over the years. Consider repackaging, sharpening, and cleaning out older, gently used items before purchasing new ones.

Look for the deals. Some retailers’ back-to-school specials are available for online and in-store purchase. Make sure to check out your local newspaper for deals. Oftentimes, retailers will put ads showcasing the special buy-one-get-one-free deals, and even coupled items like lunchboxes with backpacks to lure in customers. Shop sooner rather than later and save more.

Set a budget.Decide how much you are willing to spend per child, and include your children fora “teachable moment” on creating a budget. After taking inventory, create ashopping list and stick to it. This will help you avoid costly impulsepurchases and ensure nothing is forgotten.

Shop during tax free holidays. Tax Free Shopping Weekend in Texas takes place on August17-19. This can mean significant savings for your family. Be mindful of restrictions, either a dollar amount or on the type of item purchased. Most tax holidays include clothing and school supplies; some include computers and sports equipment, too.

Know what yourchild's school allows. Schools will often provide parents with a list of required items for the school year, which can help determine what you need to purchase. These lists are also available at many retail stores and on school websites. Additionally, many schools have specific dress codes, so keep these restrictions in mind before spending money on clothes the school may not allow.

Check for refund andexchange policies. Be sure you can exchange or return items purchased during this time period. Keep in mind some items may be non-refundable or have restocking fees associated with a return.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline, (903) 581-8373.