How Can I Beat Inflation and Save on Back-to-School Shopping?

Q: With prices soaring and expenses mounting, I’m worried that back-to-school shopping will kill my budget and push me into debt. How can I beat inflation and save on back-to-school shopping?

A: While you may need to adjust your annual back-to-school budget to account for inflation, there are ways to save on these costs and keep your budget intact. Follow these tips to beat inflation this back-to-school season.

Shop with a budget

Your first step toward saving on back-to-school shopping is to create a budget for this shopping season. Determine how much you can afford to spend and allocate specific amounts for different categories such as clothing, supplies and electronics. Having a budget will help you stay focused and avoid impulse purchases.

Take inventory 

Before hitting the stores, take inventory of what you already have at home. Check your kids’ closets, drawers and study areas for supplies and clothing that can be reused or repurposed for the coming school year. This will give you a clear idea of what you really need to buy and help prevent unnecessary spending.

Plan ahead

Start shopping early and take advantage of sales throughout the summer. Watch for clearance sales, promotions and discounts. By planning ahead, you can secure better deals while avoiding the rush and price hikes that happen closer to the start of the school year. You can also take advantage of your state’s tax-free weekend for bigger savings.

Buy generic

Don’t hesitate to reach for generic brands when purchasing school supplies for your kids. Store brands, like Walmart, or Target’s Up & Up, are consistently cheaper than name brands without compromising on quality.

Shop without your kids

While your kids may savor the experience of choosing their own school supplies for the coming year, shopping with kids is one of the best ways to kill a budget. Kids always have their own ideas of what’s best to spend money on, and their opinions may not necessarily align with yours–or with your budget. If your kids aren’t thrilled about you doing all the shopping on your own, compromise by allowing them to join you on one or two shopping trips, for example, when you shop for shoes and backpacks, but do the rest on your own.

Think secondhand

Consider purchasing used textbooks, clothing and electronics. You can find gently used items at significantly lower prices on secondhand websites like ThredUp, and at thrift stores like Goodwill.

When shopping secondhand, it’s important to ensure that items are in good condition and meet your requirements before making the purchase. Also, when buying a secondhand (or any) item online, only use secure platforms and ask to see the item, or a photo of the item, before finalizing the transaction. Finally, use a payment method with purchase protection, such as a credit card, so you can always reclaim your funds should the item turn out different than expected.

Use discounts and coupons

Before you shop, look for coupons, promotional codes and student discounts to bring down the prices of the items you need to buy. Many retailers offer exclusive discounts to students and teachers. Sign up for newsletters or loyalty programs to receive updates on special offers. You can also use a discount-finder app or browser extension, like Rakuten or Honey to scour the web and automatically pull up any coupons for the items you need. Additionally, check with your child’s school or local community organizations for any available discounts or programs.

Buy in bulk

When possible and it makes sense, purchase supplies in bulk. This is particularly useful for items that are commonly used throughout the school year, like notebooks, pencils and paper. Buying in bulk often comes with a lower per-unit cost, providing long-term savings that will pay off all year long.

Prioritize quality and durability

While it may be tempting to opt for cheaper alternatives, prioritize quality and durability. Investing in well-made products can save you money in the long run, as they are less likely to require replacements later.

Prices are soaring, but that doesn’t mean you need to fall into debt when back-to-school shopping. Follow the tips outlined here to beat inflation and save.