Back-to-School Shopping Strategy

10 Great Tips to Keeping Your Cool and Controlling Your Cash

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail sales during back-to-school shopping months are a close second to those of the holiday months (November and December). Yep, that’s right. No wonder those three little words, back-to-school, are enough to start your blood pressure rising. In fact, a study of over 9,000 respondents by BIGresearch ( found that the average American family was projected to spend $603.63 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics in 2011. Wow! That’s a lot of loot.

So what’s the best strategy for keeping your cool and your cash while back-to-school shopping? Here are 10 tips to help you get organized for the big shopping excursion.

1. Make a plan.

You’ve heard the saying “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” haven’t you? Well, this holds true when it comes to back-to-school shopping. Start off by getting a list of recommended or required school supplies from your child’s school or teacher.

2. Take inventory.

Sort through all of last year’s school supplies, office supplies and those overflowing junk drawers. You are bound to come up with a few items you can cross off your list. Also take note of your child’s clothing conditions and inventory. If everything from last year fits and is in good condition, why go out and buy more?

3. Separate needs from wants.

Work with your child to make a list of essentials your child needs to start out the school year. Those essentials are everything your child needs. All other items are wants. Be firm and stick to your needs list.

4. Hold off buying trendier gear.

Does last year’s backpack or lunch box work just fine?  If so, suggest to your child that you purchase a new one after school begins. Once school starts, your children will most likely see a version someone else has that they prefer. This will save you the step in having to “upgrade” to the cooler version later.

5. Reuse.

Are last year’s binders and folders in good shape? If so, why not encourage your child to redecorate them using stickers, fabric or extra wrapping paper you have on hand.

6. Purchase supplies in person.

Shopping online may be convenient and great for comparative shopping; however, a study by BIGresearch estimates that online shoppers spend 44 percent more than those who purchase items in person.

7. Stock up on supplies.

Bulk buy whenever possible, especially if some of the essential school supplies are items you use around the house all year long. Most back-to-school sales offer school supplies at a reduced rate to get you to come in and shop at a particular store. Remember, prices for most school-related items seem to increase a few weeks after school begins.

8. Recycle.

This is a great time to start asking friends for hand-me-downs. It’s also smart to shop all of the consignment shops in your area. Most of them carry a good supply of collared shirts and school uniforms. In addition to shopping consignment stores for school essentials, you can cash in on some of your child’s outgrown items by consigning them yourself.

9. Have your kids chip in for their back-to-school shopping.

Did you ever notice how amazing it is when kids have to spend their own money for items they suddenly don’t “need” as much as they thought they did?

10. Shop sales throughout the year.

It’s hard to believe that little Suzie has outgrown everything all at once. If she has underwear and socks that fit, don’t add them to the list. Kids are constantly growing and their essentials wear out at different times.  Resist the temptation to get everything all at once.

Back-to-school shopping isn’t an art or science that takes years to master. It is important to plan ahead so you don’t get caught up in the hype of the back-to-school frenzy. Just start early, get organized, take inventory and stick to your plan.

Let’s get shopping!

Kara Ferraro is a publisher and freelance writer with two elementary aged children. She is always looking for clever ways to save and make life easier so she can spend more time with her family.


Categories: Education, Financial Health