Back-to-School Shopping Hacks That Cut Your Budget in Half

Happy mother and daughter shopping at a store and buying stationery - school supplies concepts.
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With inflation skyrocketing to a four-decade high, many Americans are being hit hard in every aspect of their lives. And now, with the back-to-school season upon us, many parents are worried about the rising costs of supplies.

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Save More: Back-to-School Tips To Help You Cut Costs

Indeed, Deloitte’s 2022 Back-to-School survey shows spending is up 8% from 2021 and up 27% from 2019 with clothing and accessories at the top of the increases. The survey also notes that back-to-school is typically the largest spending event for parents, behind holiday spending. In turn, it’s hardly a surprise that this year, 57% of parents say they are concerned about inflation on back-to-school products and 37% say they expect to spend more on back-to-school products year-over-year.  

But despite soaring costs and increased worries, there are tips and tricks to cut expenses and alleviate the mental and financial toll of inflationary pressures.

And who better equipped than TikTok star Shannon Doherty to share some of these hacks?

Speaking on the Live Richer podcast, mommy vlogger and Doherty talked about parent hacking and budgeting tips parents can use during back-to-school season.

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Doherty is also an entrepreneur with more than 1.8 million followers on TikTok and almost 100,000 subscribers on YouTube with her brand “At Home With Shannon.”

As a mom of four, she is used to juggling and says that back-to-school season “is always a crazy time.”

“You’re coming off summer where you’re kind of relaxing and having fun with your family, and then it’s back to crunch time,” Doherty said on the podcast. “So one thing that I love to say to try to do as much as you can, is be organized. I know it’s tough for back to school, but getting things done earlier in the week, picking out outfits, meal prepping, meal planning is really great.”

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Use Coupons

So beyond planning, another useful tip is to “just look for deals” and coupons, Doherty says. This year, families plan to spend an average of $864 on school items, up from $849 in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey, so coupons will come in handy.

“I’m not afraid to say I love coupons. I love coupon codes. I’m always looking to use them,” Doherty says. “And there’s really tons of deals. If you look for them, you will find them, definitely.”

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In terms of where the great places are to get coupon codes, or which stores to look at to avoid paying the full price on items, Doherty says she’s an aficionado of big-box chains such as Target and Walmart, particularly for supplies.

Shop Around For the Best Bargain

“I love Walmart. I find everything there from birthday party supplies, back-to-school supplies, [and] holiday supplies. I am always at Walmart. Clothes, I love. You can really find great deals there,” she says.

In terms of clothing, Doherty says that you’ll mostly find her shopping at Gap or Old Navy buying stuff for her family and that she’s always “searching for coupon codes on my phone at the checkout.”

“I know that there are always codes if you look for them. So I’m not bashful. I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, it’ll take me a second. But I’m going to find that.’ I normally will just Google it on my phone type in Old Navy discount codes, sign up for emails, [and] text messages. I always do that,” she says.

Make Your Money Work for You

This coupon method works out for the new school year because of inflation. Fifty-nine percent of parents say they intend to use coupons and sales for the back-to-school season, according to a survey by real estate and retail management firm JLL. Fortunately, most major retail outlets offer some sort of price-matching policy when it comes to coupons and items so this can also save you money.

Reuse Items

Another one of Doherty’s tips is to not forget to make “the little changes that I think make a big difference.”

So for example, she says to think of hand-me-downs, and not only for clothing items.

“Backpacks, you can pass down, little changes that make a huge difference,” she says.

She recommends re-using food as well, she says. “Leftovers, you don’t need to make a new lunch every day. If dinner was not eaten, save some of it, it works as leftover for school lunch the next day. I try to reuse as much as I can always,” Doherty says.

To put this in context, food was up 1.1% in July, representing the seventh consecutive monthly increase of 0.9%  or more, and the food at home index rose 1.3%, a 13.1% increase over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In that sense, using leftovers can translate into a simple yet impactful way to make your dollar stretch longer.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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