As the dog days of summer near an end, a reminder: back to school season is starting.
The southern United States spends the most and the earliest for school – with 70% of shoppers in the region starting before August and an average spend of $554 per child, on according to consultancy firm Deloitte. Savvy shoppers are looking for big savings.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools first day is Monday, Aug. 27. So, there’s still time to plan your shopping strategy.
Use a School Supplies List, Take Inventory
You need to develop a plan. Know what you need so you can keep costs manageable. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools provides supply lists for all grade levels at www.wsfcs.k12.nc.us. Follow it closely. It shows exactly what you need. You may have what you need lying around your house. Take inventory of closets, desk drawers, and basement bins that hold hidden treasures – from clothes to school supplies.
Put supplies in a central location – like a plastic bin or dining room table. Make a list of what you have. Check it against your needs list. As you sort other needed items like clothing, make sure to determine how many outts you really need to buy. Keep your lists with you as you shop. Don’t re-buy what you already own.
Watch Your Timing
Remember, when your kids get to school this year, they may quickly change their minds about what they like – when they see what everyone else is wearing.
The big rush to buy school supplies occurs in August. Major retailers will compete all summer to sell you supplies. For some items, you can avoid this peak time and buy later when items go on sale. Waiting may limit your selection, but the goal is to avoid paying full price for items like clothes, pens and binders.
For summer clothes, late August and early September offer deep discounts. Hold off on buying winter clothes. There may be more sales. Warm temps often last into November in North Carolina. Buy jeans in October when the back-to-school rush has ended and retailers cut prices on leftover inventory.
Knocking out school shopping at one store may be convenient, but you may pay full price for many items. Buy when and where the price is right. Look for bargains at thrift stores. Many stores run back-to-school sales just like major retailers. For school supplies, the closer to the first day of school, the more picked over the inventory will be. If you don’t plan to wait for clearance sales, hit up dollar stores for bargains on supplies like notebooks and pencils. Don’t count on back-to-school items staying in stock long.
If you have a college student, searching bargain stores, and classified ad and social media sites, can take the edge off sticker shock. Save money dorm shopping at classified sites for used items like a fridge, microwave, rugs, and light cooking equipment. Ask friends and family about items they do not use, or trade for needed items with neighborhood parents – it offers the added benefit of decluttering homes.
Don’t Forget About Coupons
Watch for back-to-school ‑fliers and ads this month. The Sunday paper is still a great place to find coupons. Check your mailbox for weekly coupons and store websites for printable coupons. Or, download coupons onto your smartphone, use text-to-get coupon promotions, or seek out back-to-school sections on retail coupon websites.
Some stores offer coupons in store, you just have to ask – or find them on shelves. Many retailers have school supply coupons in the weekly ads kept at the front of the store. Call ahead to stores to see if they offer coupon or price matching, especially for expensive items like electronics. And, check about upcoming sales – it never hurts to ask.
Also, search updates from your favorite retailers on Twitter and Facebook. Many send loyal followers coupon links and advance notice of sales.