Tips for Smart Back-to-School Shopping

August 07, 2017

School bells will be ringing before we know it, and with Tax-Free Weekend right around the corner, 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 home, Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) recommends sticking to a budget to avoid the common overspending on school supplies.

back to school shopping

According to the National Retail Federation, parents will continue to be prudent in many areas of school shopping this year. It’s projected $29.5 billion will be spent on back-to-school shopping. Over 57% of consumers will be shopping from department/discount store. It also appears 91% of consumers say they will take advantage of free shipping to save money. This year, 46.7% of consumers will wait three weeks to a month before starting back-to-school shopping.

“A little planning can go a long way when it comes to school supply shopping,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas. “Taking the extra time to see what you have left over from the previous school year may help parents to stick within their budgets and/or may allow for higher end items.”

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

  • Take inventory. There’s always 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. Many retailers provide online only offers and ship to store services. Oftentimes, retailers advertise special buy-one-get-one-free or gift with purchase deals.

  • Set a budget. Decide how much you are willing to spend per child, and include your children for a “teachable moment” by creating a budget. After taking inventory, create a shopping list and stick to it. This will help you avoid costly impulse purchases as well as ensure nothing is forgotten.

  • Shop during tax free holidays. Tax Free Shopping Weekend in Texas takes place August 11-13. This can mean significant savings for your family. Be mindful of restrictions, such as a dollar amount or number of specific items purchased.

  • Know what your child's school allows. Schools will often provide parents with a list of required items for the school year which can help determine what needs to be purchased. 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 and exchange 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 tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373 or report it via BBB ScamTracker.