It's the time of year both parents and students approach with a mix of excitement and dread: back-to-school prep. If you're lucky, you already have a list from your school with the supplies that will be required for the coming year. But the choices can still be daunting when you go on your shopping trip. Whether you feel like you have everything under control, or you're running out on the last weekend before school starts, these tips will help keep more money in your pocket.
1. See if your school offers a pre-packaged bundle of required supplies
Many schools are taking the task of buying classroom supplies out of individual parents' hands and leveraging their buying power to offer a great deal on the essentials. This option also means your student ends up with exactly what they will need for the year so there's less chance of spending money on something they will never use.
2. Separate your shopping into "quality" items – worth spending more on – and "saving" items
Not all school supplies are created equal! Think about which items will be able to be used for several years or will be subject to a lot of use this year. You may want to consider investing a bit more for those things so that they last. On the other hand, consumable items such as pencils, pens, and note paper can usually go on the list of supplies you will get at the lowest possible price.
3. Compare prices to make sure you're getting the best deal
It should go without saying, but you should know what the price range is on supplies before you go shopping. Comparing prices online – or even using an app that will automatically compare sales and show you the best deal – can help cut down on the amount of time you spend going from store to store shopping.
4. Work with your community & neighbours to see if you can buy in bulk to cut costs
Some of the best deals on supplies are for large quantities. Unless you have the cash to spend for several years' worth of supplies up front (and want to store them for that long), a great solution is getting together a group of parents who need similar supplies, buying in bulk, and then dividing up the purchases.
5. Join a swap or trade group where you might be able to find gently used supplies for less
Similar to our previous tip, this idea works best when you have a group of parents with students in varying age groups. As they need to upgrade their supplies, passing on gently used items from previous years can help reduce the amount of waste while providing a cheaper price than buying the same thing new.
1. Get caught up in the hype for the latest, must-have accessories
While you (or your student) might love to have the trendiest supplies on hand, chances are you'll pay a premium for something that is popular right now but might be "so last year" before the end of the school year. While you're shopping, make sure your items will be loved just as much next June as they are when you buy them.
2. Assume the advertised price is really a bargain
Advertising can be tricky sometimes. It's tempting to grab your supplies from the display with the price written in large, bold letters – but this is where your price comparisons come in handy. The sign may just be for show and not necessarily mean the item is on sale.
3. Think you'll be able to borrow everything you need from classmates or siblings
It's a nice idea that friends will be able to pass a ruler back and forth or siblings can share a calculator since they'll be using it at different times. The reality is that for homework assignments and tests, your student will want supplies they can use when they need them.
4. Wait until after the first day of school to buy your essential supplies
Many stores order limited quantities of the essentials so that they aren't stuck with too much stock once the back-to-school season is over. If you wait until after school has started to buy these supplies, chances are they'll either be hard to find or you'll be paying a premium at a specialty store.
5. Feel like you need to have everything ready to go for the first day of school
At the same time, if you have some items from last year that will stretch for the first few weeks of the school year, you can take the time to find the supplies you really want. (This tip works best for those "quality" items you're planning to spend more on.) Coupons or online deals will still help you to save money once the back-to-school ads stop.
Back-to-school is one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year – and one of the most profitable for retailers. By following these tips, you'll save money on your back-to-school shopping. If you ask us, that's just smart!
Check out our video of real moms Rebekah and Nicole talking about their strategies to save when shopping for their kids:
Auxilium Mortgage Corporation is based in Victoria, BC and works with clients locally and across Canada. The Auxilium team has over 100 years of combined financial experience and access to dozens of lenders to help you meet your goals.