6 ways to not overspend on school supplies

The 2020-21 school year is nearly upon us! With uncertainty regarding what, exactly, the school year will look like, parents across the country are in a precarious position with the back to school shopping season already here. In fact, a survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF) explains that consumers are tentatively planning to spend a record amount of money this summer—particularly on laptops and computer accessories in anticipation that at least some classes will take place online.

Of the 7,500 consumers who responded to the survey, nearly 90 percent said COVID-19 will affect their spending, and it’s expected to impact families with students of all ages. Given the tight economy, here are some ways you can avoid breaking the bank this school year.

  1. Take an inventory

Pretty simple here, but best way to avoid overspending is knowing what you have and what you need. Start by looking at the school supply list provided by your child’s teacher or school district. Take out all your old school supplies, sort it in a central location, and write down how many of each item you have. Sort through your kids’ wardrobe and decide which clothes to keep. Clothes not being worn due to wear and tear can be donated, and those that no longer fit can be sold. Money gained from the sales can be put towards new items. Consider selling items online on eBay or creating a profile on the social commerce marketplace, Poshmark.

  1. Establish your spending limit

The NRF estimates that K-12 shoppers will spend an average of $790 per household this year, with college households expected to spend an average of $1,060 on back to school supplies. Using these figures as a reference point, make a budget that works for your family and stick to it.

  1. Wait on buying clothes

With the amount of in-person schooling still in question, it’s best to take a wait and see approach for buying new clothes. Many sales happen before school starts in August, but the bigger ones typically happen after school starts in September. The same survey from the NRF also mentioned that there will be a significant increase in online shopping this year. With brick and mortar stores relying on customers coming into their stores more than ever, the sales should only continue to get more enticing as the summer progresses.

  1. Know what tech items are necessary

Today, technology is progressing at a rapid pace. Most experts estimate a laptop’s lifespan to be between four to five years. Even if the typical laptop reaches this threshold unscathed, it will soon become outdated due to frequent hardware advancements.

it’s important to consider your child’s age and plans after high school graduation before such a big investment. If your child is a junior or senior and plans on attending college, it might be worth it to spend the big bucks on a flagship model. However, if your child still has a few years to go or is unsure of their plans after graduation, it’s probably smarter to look into your school district’s options for laptop rentals or to invest in a cheaper, short-term device—like the Lenovo Chromebook C340 for only $320 on Amazon.

  1. Compare Prices

If buying an expensive device is necessary for you and your family, and you would prefer to do so online, there are fantastic resources to make sure you are getting a product at its best price. A website called camelcamelcamel tracks and monitors millions of products on Amazon, and will send you alerts when prices for specific products drop. The site also allows you to view the price range history, which can help give you an idea of when a sale might be coming up.

Wikibuy is also an important extension to add to your Google Chrome browser. When you are shopping on Amazon, it will alert you when other retailers have a better price. The extension also automatically adds available coupons at checkout, saving you the time and hassle of tracking them down yourself!

ShopSavvy is a smartphone app, available on both iOS and Android, that does wonders when shopping at brick and mortar retailers. You simply scan the bar code of a product you’re interested in, and the app will tell you if a lower price is available at another store or online. For the app to work, you’ll also need to download a free bar code scanner app on the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

  1. Follow stores on Twitter and Facebook

One way to tell when online sales are approaching is by following your favorite local companies on social media. Some companies that are known for sharing coupon links with loyal followers on Twitter are:

By Garrett Seymour, TDS Communications Intern 

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