Back-To-School Shopping Tips to Save Money

·3 min read

Parents prepping kids for back-to-school might also be trying to prep their bank accounts.

According to the National Retail Federation, parents will spend an average of $864 on school supplies in 2022, a $168 increase from 2019.

Diane Morais, president of consumer and commercial banking at Ally, told TODAY Parents that recent price hikes "definitely" have parents crunching the numbers a little harder this back-to-school season.

"Families clearly need a few strategies to help them make the most of what they have to spend," Morais said.

Sharita M. Humphrey, financial educator and spokesperson for Self Financial, told TODAY Parents that it's important for parents to think ahead when it comes to the financial implications of back-to-school spending.

"Carrying debt each month is stressful and can negatively impact your credit," Humphrey said. "Planning back-to-school shopping purchases by looking for the best deals will help to alleviate unnecessary spending and limit what you put on your credit cards, which helps your credit."

Related: This mom’s hilarious back-to-school shopping rant is making teachers cheer

Back-to-school shopping tips to help save

Morais and Humphrey shared seven back-to-school shopping tips to help parents save money and shop smarter.

Separate needs from wants.

Focus on getting the essentials first, and consider trading down on brands, shopping at discount stores or substituting more affordable items where you can.

"You don’t need to replace every item in your child’s wardrobe," Morais explained. "Take them thrifting or let them discover the retro appeal of an older sibling’s 'vintage' coat or backpack."

Create a back-to-school budget.

Build a budget and stick to it while shopping.

"It might seem daunting to keep track of all your spending, but there are easy-to-use apps and tools that make it simpler," Morais said.

Take advantage of tax-free weekends.

Some states give parents a break with seasonal “tax holidays,” during which there is no state sales tax on certain items like clothing and school supplies.

"Parents can take advantage of tax-free weekends by stocking up on school supplies and buying clothes and shoes for the upcoming fall and winter seasons," Humphrey said.

Buy in bulk.

According to a back-to-school survey conducted by JungleScout, consumers reported buying in bulk to help offset inflation. Products seeing increased revenue include Mead Spiral Notebooks (Pack of 18) seeing a 138% revenue increase, and Two Tone Backpacks (Pack of 24) has seen a 7,216% revenue increase.

"As long as you’re sticking to your set budget, bulk-buying can be a smart way to cut costs, especially for items that have been affected by price increases," Morais said.

Utilize gift cards.

Parents can utilize gift cards to help with back-to-school shopping, because it’s like purchasing with cash.

"Gift card shopping will help curb impulse spending not only for themselves, but also for their children," Humphrey told TODAY Parents. "I recommend parents give their older children gift cards for their back-to-school needs, as it will teach them how to manage their money and make positive financial decisions."

Use technology to your advantage.

Morais suggested that once parents have an idea of how much they want to spend, they should take advantage of free online tools designed to help reach specific savings goals.

Reconsider "Buy Now, Pay Later" programs.

Buy Now, Pay Later programs allow customers to purchase items that they want without having to pay the total balance upfront. Some platforms offer zero interest rates while others have rates as high as 30%.

As with any financial decisions, read all the fine print before you hit "complete purchase," Humphrey said.

"It’s important to do your research if considering these platforms or to save each month for purchases to avoid accruing any fees or negative impact on your credit for late or missed payments."