While most families are just starting to think about back to school shopping, retailers have been touting sales on crayons, laptops and folders since June. The National Retail Federation found that this year, families are all about shopping smartly while stocking up on the basics, with the economy and the Internet both playing big roles in the decision-making process.
Between the pencils, backpacks and electronics, the spending quickly adds up. In fact, the average family will spend more than $688 to gear up for the academic year, with total spending to reach $30.3 billion. The savings experts at Promotional Codes.com share their top nine tips for scoring savings on the back to school basics:
Shop your home first. Take inventory of your drawers, cabinets and closets so you know what you already have before shopping. You'll most likely find several forgotten items- it makes no sense to make a double purchase on generic items like paper and pencils.
Shop for deals online. Nearly four in ten parents plan to shop for supplies and gear online, in part because of the ease in comparison shopping. For additional online savings, search for coupons on the PromotionalCodes.com back to school deals page. These coupons can be especially helpful on a larger ticket item like a laptop or textbook.
Take advantage of student discounts. Parents: your kid's new college ID can mean big savings. Retailers like Apple, Microsoft and DELL offer student-only pricing on laptops, and often attach a free gift card to the purchase for printers, e-books or apps. This year, Apple is offering a $50 discount on its MacBook Air with a free $100 gift card, and DELL is offering a $200 e-gift card with student purchases. Hunt for these deals during mid-August when laptops are expected to reach lowest pricing.
Buy used. The savings potential is big when buying used electronics and textbooks. For electronics, consider a refurbished model. Sometimes a new model of a camera, phone or computer is rated lower by reviewers than the model it replaces, and it could even mean the original owner simply opened the box and returned it without use. When buying refurbished, be sure to purchase a warranty for peace of mind. For textbooks, sites like Half.com, Amazon or Chegg.com offer pricing that will be much lower than the campus bookstore.
Practice spending patience. Back to school shopping is the second-largest shopping season behind the winter holidays, but that doesn't mean you will find the lowest price on everything you need during July and August. Basics like pencils, crayons, backpacks and notebooks have rock-bottom pricing during August, but unless you have a valid college ID in the family, hold off on the laptop or tablet. These electronics historically dip in price during late September.
Purchase transitional clothing. Instead of buying the fall collection right away, purchase summer apparel that transitions well as the weather cools down. The department store sales are going strong, where you can easily score 40 percent off summer apparel. Look for light sweaters, tanks and dresses to layer; hold off on cold weather clothing until the middle or end of the season when stores will slash prices to make way for holiday promotions.
Don't buy everything at the dollar store. The dollar store is great for office supply items during most of the year, but during July and August, office supply, department and drug stores all offer back to school deals that far exceed dollar store pricing. Dollar stores are touting $1 folders and notebooks, while office supply stores offer 10-cent folders and 30-cent notebooks during back to school promotions. For the college-bound, items like shampoo, picture frames and cleaning products are still great basics to purchase at the dollar store during this time.
Use tax holidays. Seventeen states are offering sales tax holidays on clothing, computer and school supply purchases this year, many of them happening the first weekend in August. Check your state tax and revenue website to find out when yours will be and what items will be tax-exempt.
Score freebies. JC Penney Salons will be offering free haircuts to students K-6 during the month of August, in the hopes that Mom or Dad will do a little shopping during the appointment. Take advantage of these freebie opportunities, as Target is also offering a scholarship contest for college essentials like Ramen, makeup and flip flops.