Parents spend billions of dollars a year on their back-to-school and college shopping. Many retailers capitalize on the rush to get ready by running big back-to-school sales.
“It’s easy to get overwhelmed by back-to-school shopping season, whether it’s by your child’s supply list or the ads that are ubiquitous this time of year,” said Stephanie Garland, regional director of Better Business Bureau (BBB) Springfield. “Doing your homework and planning ahead can maximize your savings on your back-to-school shopping.”
To help save time and money, consider the following tips as you prepare for back-to-school shopping:
• Make a shopping list. Even if you don’t have a school supply list yet, you can still purchase other items like school clothing and in-class school essentials like pens, notebooks, and backpacks. Make a list for each child, but start by “shopping at home” for items that you may already have left over from last year. For some items, it’s worth spending a bit more (a high-quality backpack will last for years).
• Create a budget. Do a quick price search online for the items on your list and add them all up. Be sure to clip coupons, and make note of discount codes and any cash-back or rebate programs. If your goal is to reduce spending, now is the time to decide how much you want to cut.
• Know the difference between “Back-to-School Sale” and tax-free items. Retail stores may advertise back-to-school sales because they know consumers are buying items for the upcoming school year. Certain discounts will still have taxes applied to them unless the item qualifies.
• Sign up for email alerts at your favorite stores. Monitoring pricing early on is key to finding good deals on quality products. Many sites will have an informed community of savvy shoppers on their blog or in their forums who willingly share deals, exclusive coupons, rebates and insider information on where and when to find the best prices and products. These alerts will assure you don’t miss out on the hottest items and limited opportunities.
• Take advantage of discounts. Many stores offer student and teacher discounts on hot items like laptops and uniforms. Retailers will try to make room for fall fashion and the newest models, so there are incredible savings to be had if you do a little research.
• Check the refund and exchange policies. Be sure you can exchange or return items that are purchased during this time. Keep in mind, some items may be non-refundable or have restocking fees associated with a return.

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