BBB Tip: Back-to-School Shopping Shouldn’t Break the Bank


shopping cart with school supplies“Back-to-school” specials now run all summer long and, while kids may not want to think about summer’s end, smart parents can take advantage of all the deals to save money and send their children to school with everything they need.

According to the National Retail Federation, nearly a quarter of families start shopping for school supplies two months before school starts. That means retail stores are putting their best foot forward all summer long. Better Business Bureau has some tips for consumers to take advantage of all the savings possible:

Create a budget. A budget will help shape your shopping list and help limit purchases to only items you need. Knowing your budget will also allow you to put money towards larger items or a special purchase.

Create a shopping list. Make a list by child or by store to avoid multiple trips. Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions, a BBB Accredited Business and National Partner, suggests starting by shopping at home to see if you have items left over from last year before pulling out your wallet.

Research major purchases. When shopping for laptops, calculators, dorm refrigerators, and other large purchases, do your homework. Research the brands you’re looking for to see what meets your expectations.

Check for educational discounts. Some computer and software companies offer discounts to students and teachers with .edu email addresses. Some of these can be quite substantial, so check around.

Shop Tax-Free. Some states in the United States offer a tax-free holiday specifically for the back-to-school shopping rush. To see if your state participates, check out 2017 Sales Tax Holidays from the Federation of Tax Administrators. While there is no province-wide parallel in Canada, some retailers offer similar 'save the tax' specials at this time of year.

Don’t miss sales. Sign-up for email alerts and download shopping apps for your favorite stores. There are a number of apps that help you find coupons and discounts. Check out stores and apps on before you shop to learn more about previous customers’ experiences.

Buy in bulk. Some schools ask parents to buy items that will be used by the entire class (tissues, hand sanitizer, etc.). Get together with other parents to shop in bulk. Parents of college students can also buy in bulk for snacks, toiletries and other items for future “care packages.”

Save your receipts. You’ll need them if you want to make an exchange or return an item. Remember some items are non-refundable or have a limited return period. Consider creating a free email account just for e-receipts; that way you can keep them all in one place and easily search when you need one.

Last Reviewed:  August 1, 2017