Back-to-school supplies: 10 secrets of saving money amid high inflation

on Aug16
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Shopping for back-to-school supplies is likely on the minds of millions of American families — and with today’s high inflation, parents may be paying closer attention to what’s printed on the price tags.

“When August rolls around, families with school-age kids may be unprepared for the cost of clothes, supplies, uniforms and equipment they must buy,” said Laura Adams, a personal finance expert with finder.com.

“The trick to saving money on back-to-school shopping is creating a budget and anticipating that you’ll probably need to purchase more than you expect.”

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Here are 10 tips from savings experts on how to snag deals for back-to-school 2022.

Back-to-school shopping can be expensive. Check out these tips on how to save a buck. 

Back-to-school shopping can be expensive. Check out these tips on how to save a buck. 
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Be sure to share these tricks with any college or grad school student or parents with pupils.

1. Download cash-back apps

“Things like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Rakuten are all apps worthy of your phone’s precious real estate,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with dealnews.com, a shopping comparison website. 

These apps can be used both in-store and online to get cash back on certain purchases, she said.

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“You can earn cash back on everything from groceries for back to school lunches to gas for driving around to different stores to get the best prices and of course on supplies themselves whether that’s a new wardrobe or backpack or just brand-new supplies to kick off the school year,” she added.

Individually, it may not seem like much — but together, these savings will add up, she said.   

2. Download traditional store apps, too

Along with specialty apps like the aforementioned, many retailers offer apps with exclusive savings. 

So many stores offer extra discounts/coupons by just having their app — so download it,” Kassandra Vargas, a senior in college and lifestyle blogger with 44,000 TikTok followers and counting with whom she shares “Deals of the Day,” told Fox News Digital.

“For example, Bed Bath & Beyond has a college pass where you can save 20% off your entire purchase every time you make a purchase and use that pass on your app. This is a perfect way to save on college essentials this year,” she said.

Bed Bath and Beyond has a college pass; you can save 20% off your purchase by using it.

Bed Bath and Beyond has a college pass; you can save 20% off your purchase by using it.
(Bed Bath and Beyond)

3. Sign up for promotional email lists

Vargas notes that she is glued to her emails to try to find the best sales.

“I suggest creating a separate email address if you don’t like your personal email being spammed with those emails,” she said. 

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“Those emails are definitely worth getting because you get access to early deals and even personalized discount codes,” Vargas added.

4. Buy used

“Consignment stores, thrift stores and secondhand sites (like ThredUp and Poshmark) are a great way to get like-new items for a fraction of the price,” said Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at truetrae.com. 

“This works really well for younger kids especially because they don’t tend to be as particular as teens.”

“Along those lines, consider buying musical instruments and sports equipment (as long as it’s safe) used,” Bodge suggested. “You can also sell gently-used items and make some cash!”

5. Look through what you already have

It can take some time, but your credit card statement may thank you. 

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“Go through last year’s school supplies and see what is salvageable and have your kids try on all their school clothes,” said Bodge.

“Then, based on what you have vs. what you need, create a list. This will help you avoid buying things you don’t need.”

Since back-to-school shopping can be expensive, one expert suggests trying to use supplies that you already have inside your home.

Since back-to-school shopping can be expensive, one expert suggests trying to use supplies that you already have inside your home.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

You may even find you have more of a certain item (say, notebooks or highlighters) than you initially thought — and be able to donate extra to a local drive for school supplies. 

6. Use coupon sites

Apps aren’t the only way to keep green in your wallet. 

“Sites like couponcabin.com will have lots of back-to-school offers, many of which can be combined with existing retailer sales,” said Bodge. 

“For example, if you are buying something on forever21.com, you can get 8.25% cashback in addition to any sale that Forever21 is having. You can get 4% cashback at Bloomingdale’s, and so on,” Bodge added.

CouponCabin.com also has “a browser extension that, once installed, will automatically alert you to these sales, and run coupons for you at checkout on a retailer’s site.” 

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Another option is capitaloneshopping.com’s free browser extension, which automatically applies coupon codes while you search the internet.

You can use coupon sites to set deal alerts “on specific items you may need, like a scientific calculator or laptop,” said Bodge. 

Try slickdeals.net for this feature — “and once you’ve entered the name of the item [you seek], you’ll receive an alert when it goes on sale,” according to Bodge.

7. Take advantage of college programs

If you’re a student like Vargas, she suggests enrolling in programs that offer college discounts. 

“There are so many sites like Prime Student, Unidays, Student Beams, Student Universe and so many more that offer discounts to students,” she said. 

Prime Student gives a discount to students on their Amazon Prime membership.

Prime Student gives a discount to students on their Amazon Prime membership.
(iStock)

“With Prime Student, I’ve even rented some textbooks for the semester for as low as $10,” Vargas added.

8. Shop on sales tax holidays

“Sales tax holidays, which vary from state to state, are another great way to cut the cost of many back-to-school expenses,” said Adams. 

“So, find out when your state skips sales tax and put it on your calendar.” 

You may even want to schedule a reminder email to yourself so you don’t forget to grab your reusable shopping bags and hit the store aisles near you.

9. Host a back-to-school swap

“A fun way to save money is to invite other families to a back-to-school swap,” suggested Adams. 

“Everyone brings items, such as outgrown clothes, backpacks and unused supplies they don’t need anymore but might be exactly what someone else is looking for,” she said.

Organizing a back-to-school items swap could help families save money before kids re-enter the classroom in fall 2022.

Organizing a back-to-school items swap could help families save money before kids re-enter the classroom in fall 2022.
(iStock)

A similarly collaborative idea is splitting the cost with others. 

Sharing larger orders with another family or group is an excellent way to save on back-to-school supplies, said Adams. 

“Bulk orders of paper, pencils, notebooks, and other needed supplies make each item cost you less,” she said.

10. Shop during back-to-school season 

For some shopping needs, you may be able to postpone purchases until the semester is in full swing.

“When you’re in college, you realize that some supplies aren’t always an urgent need. So, just wait,” advised Vargas. 

“Toward the second week of September, you see all the school supplies go from regular price to up to 75% off [their] suggested retail.” 

A parent shops for school supplies at a Target store, on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in North Miami, Fla. 

A parent shops for school supplies at a Target store, on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in North Miami, Fla. 
(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

“It may seem like you have to get everything on your supply list during back to school season, but the truth is there are some items you can wait until later to buy and potentially save more,” echoed Ramhold, who cited backpacks and lunchboxes as two examples of products you likely won’t see big discounts on during the initial back-to-school sales.

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“However, if you wait until after Labor Day, retailers will be trying to clear out the remnants of back-to-school items, so you could see much bigger discounts on these kinds of products then,” she said. 

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Ramhold said to try to hold off a few weeks into the school year for items that you may not need right away. 

By then, “discounts are up because demand is down.”





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