If you’ve got kids, then the odds are you’ll be participating in that annual ritual known as back-to-school shopping. Unfortunately, it’s an expense that can take a big bite out of your budget. So why not dig a little deeper when looking for extra back-to-school savings this year? Here’s how:
Sign up for UNiDays
Discounts that are available to those who have a student ID are one of the few financially-rewarding aspects of being a college student. And now there are entire platforms built around the concept, like UNiDAYS, which allows students to save up to 50% on major brands.
All you need is your student email address to register and you’ll gain access to discounts from the likes of Apple, Samsung, GrubHub, Under Armour, H&M, Clinique, and more.
Upcoming offers this year include 30% off Levi’s from Aug. 28 to Sept. 4.
In addition, says Louis Ramirez, deals editor at Tom’s Guide and ShopSavvy, “Look for coupon codes that stack onto sale prices to save even more. For instance, Dell’s50OFF699 coupontakes an extra $50 off purchases of $699 or more. And many PC manufacturers like Dell and Apple offer student discounts on their website.”
Download the RetailMeNot Mobile App
Whenever I’m looking for a discount code online, the first place I go is RetailMeNot (RMN) because they usually have what I need. For easier access, download the mobile app to search thousands of deals to your favorite retailers and restaurants. The app, which recently received the Good Housekeeping Seal, notifies you of nearby offers while you’re out shopping so you never miss a deal. Just show your phone at checkout to receive it.
In addition, RMN offers a free browser extension called Genie that automatically identifies and applies coupon codes and cash back to your online orders where applicable. On average, shoppers who use Genie save $15 on their purchases, according to RMN.
Keep an eye on RankTracer
Track prices on any back-to-school items you want to buy on Amazon using RankTracer.com.
“The site tracks prices hour by hour and provides price histories so you can see whether something you want to buy has been sold recently for less and if you should hold off or not,” says savings expert Andrea Woroch. “You can also check current price drops and products that have the deepest discounts, or set sale alerts to find out when something you want to buy goes on sale.”
Pop into Walmart
According to the National Retail Federation, families with kids in K-12 will spend an average of $685 on back-to-school supplies this year. This year, with more than a thousand products under $5 — and 300 of those under a buck — Walmart is an obvious one-stop shop for back-to-school savings.
Splurge where appropriate
Going with a generic brand to save money isn’t always a wise money move — especially when it comes to back-to-school goods such as sneakers and backpacks.
“Spending more often gets you more bang for your buck,” Woroch says. “For instance, quality sneakers will hold up longer for sports, and a quality backpack can last for several school years. Just make sure to stick with a basic color or print that your child won’t outgrow.”
Yes, comparison shopping online takes time, but it’s worth it. The way I look at it, time is money, and I always have the time to keep more of my own money.
Adds Woroch, “Use an app like Flipp to compare store circulars before planning your shopping route, but keep price matching deals in mind, too, as stores like Staples offer 110% price match guarantee, so it may save you time and money to go to a nearby Staples even if you see something sold for less at a competitor — just have them price match it!”
Another trick that I use, specifically at Target, is to scan items in using the Target app to ensure that the prices in-store match the prices online. However, on many occasions I’ve spotted lower (often times much lower) prices online than when the items ring up in store. I’ve started to take screen-shots of these disparities so I can show the cashier for easier checkout under the store’s price-match policy.
Review price histories
Because retailer prices fluctuate often, you could miss out on savings — or get duped into thinking something is a big savings even though it historically has been sold for less previously.
“Sites like RankTracer.com and Paribus will help you track price histories and even set sale alerts on products sold on Amazon,” explains Woroch.
I recently bought a pair of jeans at Old Navy that a few days later were reduced by $5 and Paribus helped me get that money back; I didn’t have to do anything. That’s certainly worth a look if you don’t already use it.
Buy used or swap
Electronics are a school necessity nowadays, but even new tablets and laptops that are on sale are more than many families can afford.
“Check sites such as Facebook Marketplace to look for gently-used gadgets for school,” Woroch says. “Why splurge? Considering that your kids will beat up on them anyway.”
One last thing: You may be able to find a local parenting group that offers free swaps. This is great place to post any school supplies you no longer need for other parents — and you may even be able to snag something for your kids at no cost too.
Photo Credit: Phil Roeder