Honestly, what family doesn’t do their back-to-school shopping on a budget? There are countless expenses to consider as families get ready to begin another school year. Tuition, school supplies, athletic uniforms and gear, and clothing are just a few of the expenses that rack up as summer winds down. And the family budget is often in the red as a result.
According to the National Retail Federation, family spending on back-to-school products is on the rise. It will likely continue to increase as the economy improves and more technology purchases are required of students. Last year, the average family shopping for a high school student spent $682.99, and the average elementary student cost the family an average of $580.94. In total, Americans spent over $26.5 billion on back-to-school purchases.
American Express puts the estimate even higher, saying that parents report shelling out an average of $1,151 on back-to-school expenses. Technology needs such as laptops, tablets, calculators, cell phones and printers are driving up the totals.
With savvy and well-timed shopping, families can trim the back-to-school budget and avoiding credit card debt just to see Junior get on the school bus. How? Follow these tips to save on back-to-school shopping.
Before You Start Shopping
Tip 5: Buy shirts both you and your kids love so you can buy fewer.
Chances are, your kids’ closets are filled with plenty of shirts they don’t want to wear. Either they were gifted to them, or you did some shopping on their behalf. In the end, you spend more on clothes that don’t get worn. Instead, get ones both your kids and you will love, and you’ll need fewer shirts. There will be less fighting, too!
Younger kids love character shirts, including Spiderman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Frozen, Batman and Minnie Mouse. Some are on sale for as low as $4. Just be warned that they may refuse to leave the house in anything other than their Elsa t-shirt! Department stores like Macy’s also carry many character tees offered online at sale prices. Use coupons found in your local paper for additional discounts.
Beyond the character tees, there are also basic solid colored and patterned tee shirts for everyday wear both for young men and young ladies. Every wardrobe should also have a couple of button-down shirts or nice blouses for special school events, so browse our shirts and tops for boys and girls. You’ll notice brands you’ve come to know and love, including Reebok, Ocean and One Step Up.
And as the weather cools, outerwear is also important. Since raincoats and heavier coats are both necessities, take advantage of sales at Target or other stores that sell a variety of brands and styles of outerwear.
Tip 6: Look for pants that can be paired with several different tops.
For those looking for back-to-school clothes for girls, the little ladies in your life are probably asking for the on-trend printed shorts, pants and leggings. The key is to get pants that work with several different tops. You get more outfit choices, while spending less money!
VF Outlet has plenty of options, some for under $10. You’ll find solid color options such as traditional black pants, khakis and denim jeans as well. Swedish retailer H&M also has brightly colored pants and shorts for boys as well as leggings, jeans, jumpsuits, shorts and pants for girls.
If your daughter or granddaughter likes to dress up, VF Outlet offers skirts, dresses and jumpsuits, many for under $20. The sleeveless dresses could be worn with tights and a sweater throughout the winter and some of the skirts have elastic or adjustable waistbands to grow with your child.
For the fellas, you can find Lee jeans in various fits and washes. For those first few hot weeks (or months, depending on where you live) of school, athletic, cargo and brightly colored shorts start at just $10. And for the teens in your life who are headed to practice after school for their favorite sport, choose from activewear instead.
If you are shopping for a plus size teenager, look no further than our VF Outlet Junior Plus line, which offers graphic tees, printed leggings, dressy tops and even sweatpants.
Tip 7: If you want to buy shoes online, buy shoes that offer free returns and shipping fees.
Now that you’ve gotten your back-to-school clothes for juniors, boys and girls, it’s time to check out their feet. They’ve probably outgrown last year’s shoes, and your school may have rules about what types of shoes are allowed.
Shopping for shoes online saves you time, but it could also cost you in return shipping fees if they don’t fit. Find a retailer that doesn’t charge you to return shoes that don’t fit.
Zappo.com features basic, neutral-colored sneakers that will work with a range of outfits for under $30 — along with free return shipping! Chances are, you’ll have a hard time finding that price in brick-and-mortar retailers.
Shop Smartly for Supplies
Tip 8: Stick to the list to avoid over-spending.
Perhaps parents can be their own worst enemies when it comes to shopping for school supplies. That set of 100 crayons and 100 colored pencils for a budding artist looks so appealing next to the small box of a dozen colors. And your child deserves the best, right? Stick to the list given by the school — if your child only needs a dozen basic crayons, don’t shell out more and break the bank on unnecessary purchases.
Tip 9: Start at the dollar store, then head to the big box stores.
We often automatically head to the office supply store for notebooks and pens. Even those stores advertising back-to-school shopping sales still mark up the cost of school basics. Often the local dollar store will have the basic supplies at the cheapest prices, perfect for notebooks, pencils and rulers. Start there first. Then, whatever they didn’t have, you can get from an office supply store.
Tip 10: Take advantage of tax deals.
Many states offer sales tax holidays during the back-to-school season to encourage shopping and commerce. For example, if you live in Massachusetts and spend $1,000 on back-to-school items in the first week of August, you’ll shell out $62.50 on sales tax. Wait and shop the second weekend of August, and you won’t be charged tax, saving over $60.
These savings can add up quickly, and you’ll kick yourself if you end up spending extra money. You can visit the website of the Federation of Tax Administrators to see a list of states that offer these holidays or check with your local tax agency.
Tip 11: Get the bare minimum now, then take advantage of the back-to-school shopping sales later.
Another tactic for those parents who can stomach a little risk is to start the school year with just enough supplies to get your child through the first couple of weeks. Keep an eye out for the extreme markdown sales that occur after most kids have returned to school. Even though you are at the mercy of what is leftover — you can’t be picky about the colors of the folders, for example — there are typically enough supplies left to complete your shopping list at a deep discount.
Save Money on Accessories
Tip 12: Think ahead and look for the lowest deals now.
While remembering your kid needs a backpack is easy, other items you may overlook. Then, when the time comes that you need to buy them, you won’t have the opportunity to look for the best deal — because they need them NOW!
For example, while you’re shopping for that backpack, keep an eye out for an umbrella. For rainy days at the bus stop, Frozen or SpongeBob umbrellas will keep your kids both dry and happy as they twirl their favorite characters.
Backpacks are also an important accessory for keeping all of those important papers and projects safe. Pottery Barn Kids offers different sizes and shapes of backpacks and lunch bags, as well as other accessories. These backpacks can be personalized with your child’s name or initials, and they come in a variety of colorful, unique patterns, such as rainbows, dragons or dinosaurs.
VF Outlet carries some of the most popular character backpacks, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Minions from Despicable Me, Princess Sofia and Olaf from Frozen. Lunchboxes, reusable snack bags and water bottles are also common back-to-school accessories.
Tip 13: Only buy the latest model of that electronic device if it is truly necessary.
Studies show that technology is perhaps the biggest expense as students head back to school. For those buying a new device, such as a tablet, for their student to use in school, be sure to check with the school to find out about the wireless network and the how the device will be used.
There is no sense in shelling out for the latest model tablet if it won’t be compatible with the wireless network at school. Look for lightly used versions online, which often come with a steep discount.
If you do need a new device, try your favorite discount retailers, like Walmart. It often offers a wide variety of tech gadgets at a low price.
Tip 14: Buy directly from the manufacturer to take advantage of student discounts.
If you’ve got a pricey technology purchase in your future, also research student discounts directly from the manufacturer. Many technology companies recognize the importance of educational purchases to their bottom line, so they offer discounts to students.
Tip 15: Compare the warranty offered in the store with the one from the manufacturer.
Another area for potential savings is the warrantees offered by the store. If purchasing your device in a big box store, check out the manufacturer’s warranty before you shell out another $100 on a store warranty that might duplicate coverage.
Tip 16: Reuse accessories whenever you can.
Another area for savings is the accessories that go with technology. Sure, a sturdy case is a good idea for a student who throws his tablet into his backpack every morning while bounding out the door, but you can probably find an old set of ear buds in your junk drawer instead of buying new headphones. Don’t double the purchase price by adding every accessory available to your cart.
Now Use These Back-to-School Shopping Tips!
As you can see, there are many ways to score the best deals for back-to-school shopping without implementing austerity measures for the whole family. Whether you’re looking for back-to school clothes for boys or girls, kids or juniors, the VF Outlet has you covered.
Heading back to school brings enough to worry about, both for parents and students. You’re probably facing a million questions from “Which teacher will I get?” and “What will the school bus be like” to “Why can’t I drive myself to school this year?” and “Why isn’t my best friend in my homeroom class?”
Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to add to your stress. Follow these tips for the best back-to-school deals, and then you can focus on your student — not your shopping list.