As we enter the “Sunday evening of the summer,” aka August, many parents are beginning to think about back-to-school shopping. Shoppers are expected to spend at least last year’s breaking $37 billion on supplies and clothes, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF also reported that families with kids in school will spend an average of $864. That’s $15 more than last year.
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Big box stores like Target and Walmart, as well as sites like Amazon, are thinking about school supply shopping and starting to roll out deals.
Rebecca Gramuglia, the public relations manager at TopCashback.com, offered a few tips to find the best deals. “With so many back-to-school sales happening at once, be sure to take advantage of as many deals and discounts as you can. Keep track of online promotions by signing up for email lists, noting TV advertisements and grabbing the stores’ circulars every time you shop.”
Joye Hehn, VP of Financial Education Strategy & Implementation at Regions Bank, agrees, “Make a list and check for sales and coupons online before you go shopping.”
GOBankingRates did some of the work for you. Here’s a list of the best deals and sales at the most popular stores.
Shop the Sales at Target
Target, which devotes an entire seasonal section of its store to back-to-school, is a perfect place to complete your school shopping in one stop. A glimpse at the deals for this week include:
- 2 pocket folder with prongs, $0.15
- 24-pack of crayons, $0.25
- 2-pack of glue sticks, $0.25
- 2-pack of erasers, $0.49
- 12-pack of colored pencils, $0.50
- 10-pack of markers, $2.49
- 30-pack of sharpened #2 pencils, $6.29
Helpful tip: Look for the Up & Up brand on many items for savings over name brands. You can also use your Target debit or Target credit card for an additional 5% off. As the month wears on, Target may introduce additional deals. The prices listed are amongst the lowest we’ve seen right now for these supplies.
Check Back for Sales At Walmart
Walmart is also well known for its back-to-school sales, but in a quick comparison of their sales for this week, only the 10-pack of markers for $0.97 beat out Target’s prices.
“Main point to note is that prices change throughout the season and you don’t know when a particular item goes on sale,” observed Siva Mahesh, a personal finance expert and the CEO of Dreamshala.com. “Shop early to get the best deals and don’t buy everything at once,” he says.
Tanya Peterson, Vice President of Brand at Freedom Financial Network, agrees that you don’t have to buy everything at once, but doesn’t suggest hurrying to finish early. “It may sound counterintuitive,” she says, “but sometimes there are supplies on the list that kids won’t need right off the bat. If you can wait to purchase these, clearance sales usually begin right after school starts. And with so many different start dates this fall, it pays to keep your eye out for these sales.”
Count on Staples for Sales
Parents can typically count on Staples to knock most of the items off their back-to-school shopping list. While notebooks may drop to 25 cents as September gets closer, right now, the office supply store is offering composition books for $0.50 and 1-subject spiral notebooks for $0.69.
If you don’t want to settle for store brand pencils, Staples has some good sales on Ticonderoga, a brand often requested by teachers. The 24-pack is just $3.99 right now, reduced from $6.29. That represents a 36% savings. Meanwhile, the 72-pack of pencils is on sale for 46% off. While conventional wisdom may lead you to believe you’ll save money buying in bulk, be sure to compare unit prices, Peterson warns. “Buy in bulk only when it makes sense,” she says.
If You Buy in Bulk, Share the Savings
Peterson brings up another important point about buying in bulk. “No matter how great the deal is, be realistic about what you buy,” she says. “Will your child really need 50 pens or 100 folders?”
“Bulk buying at a membership club might make sense if you’re buying for multiple children or can split supplies and expenses with a friend,” says Hehn.
If you have extra money in your budget, you might consider buying in bulk and donating a portion of the items to your child’s classroom to help out when supplies start to dwindle mid-year. You could also look for opportunities to donate new school supplies within your community to help families in need start the school year with the necessary supplies.
Use Coupons and Shopping Apps To Help You Save
Many shoppers are planning to use coupons to cut costs on school supplies. However, if you’re looking to combine coupons with sale prices, be sure to do your homework, Gramuglia advises.
“Make note that sometimes sale items won’t qualify for additional discounts, so be sure to factor that in when deciding which store to shop at,” she says.
Take Advantage of Cashback Opportunities
Once you’ve maximized your savings, you can start looking for ways to earn cash back.
Consider shopping with Bumped, an online brokerage and tech company that offers rewards with a twist. Shoppers can earn fractional shares of stocks by purchasing online through the app or with a credit or debit card linked to the app in stores like Walmart, Office Depot, Staples and others. The company says it is currently offering users increased percentages in stock rewards for back-to-school shopping in retail, office supplies, technology and more.
If you’re using a cashback credit card to cover your school shopping, it can be tempting to purchase more than you need — or more than you can afford.
To avoid overspending, Hehn says, “Begin by evaluating each child’s needs and purchasing appropriately. Then, cross-check your cart with your list and your budget before you check out to confirm you have what you need and to give yourself a chance to resist impulse buys.”
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Sam DiSalvo contributed to the reporting for this article.
Please note: Prices are accurate as of Aug. 15, 2022 and are subject to change at any time.