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How To Save On Back-to-School Shopping

Aug. 19, 2021
5 mins
A beagle puppy jumps up on the bed with a dad and his stylish young son

In August, parents begin to shop for their children’s return to school. While this routine can be exciting for the whole family, it can also be an anxious time because of the added expense. Here are various solutions to keep back-to-school costs low if you are worried about your finances.

COVID-19 and the 2021 school year

Under the Ontario government’s back-to-school plan, all students can return to the classroom full-time in September; however, remote learning will remain an option.

What this means for back-to-school shopping is your needs may differ from past school years. Perhaps you’ll need to upgrade your family’s computers for virtual classes, or maybe you will need to purchase masks and hand sanitizer. Be sure to consider any needs resulting from the pandemic in addition to ordinary back-to-school items.

Make a shopping list

The back-to-school shopping expenses you will incur will depend on your child’s current grade and school. You would not purchase the same items for a child going into the first grade compared to a child going into the first year of university.

When it comes to saving, it is best to have a plan and stick to it. The first step is to create a shopping list. To help determine what to include on your list, consider the school supplies below.

School supplies for all education levels

  • Clothing or uniforms
  • Backpack, pencil pouch, and lunch bag
  • Pencils, pens, highlighters, and markers
  • Erasers and whiteout
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Glue sticks
  • Notebooks, folders, duotangs, and binders
  • Calculator
  • Calendar or agenda
  • Note and graph paper
  • Hole punch
  • Protractors and rulers
  • Gym supplies (bag, clothes, and shoes)

Additional needs for post-secondary students

  • Laptop and laptop bag
  • Printer, paper, and ink cartridges
  • Dorm room items, such as decor, bedding, and kitchen supplies
  • Specific items for the program, such as textbooks or lab supplies

Create a budget

Once you have your shopping list, you can create a budget. A budget will prevent you from overspending and ensure each item you purchase has a purpose. Those back-to-school impulse buys can be deceiving. Lots of school supplies are under $5; however, the cost of many small items can add up quickly.

According to the National Retail Federation, families with elementary or high school children plan to spend just under $850 on back-to-school shopping this year. If the household has university students, that number goes up to approximately $1,200.

Related read: Beyond RESPs: How to Save for Your Child’s Education

These numbers give you a good starting point for your budget but try to trim it where you can. An excellent way to cut your budget is to price out each item on your shopping list. By doing this, you can compare costs and find opportunities to save.

Back to school saving tips

Now that you know what your kids need for school, you can begin shopping. Or you can use these additional saving tips and tricks below.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle

School supplies do not have to be brand new. Look around your home for old items that you can reuse. If you need to purchase new things, try to look for supplies that can last for a couple of years. This investment will ensure that you save in the future.

You can also shop at second-hand stores for school clothes and supplies. Many children outgrow their belongings quickly, which means that buying brand new is not always economical. In addition, it has become trendy to shop at thrift stores, especially for university students. Not only will you be saving money, but you will also be hip and stylish!

Shop as you go

A good shopping strategy is to purchase just the essentials before the school year starts. As the school year continues, you can buy additional supplies as you need them.

Sell old stuff online

Kids grow up quickly; they outgrow clothes, toys and pretty much everything else at a rapid pace. If you have lots of old children’s stuff lying around, try to sell salvageable items online. You may even be able to trade or sell school uniforms with other parents.

The extra money you earn can go toward this year’s back-to-school expenses.

Student deals

In the late summer, many student deals begin to pop up. The sales usually target university and college-bound students; however, that does not mean you will lose out on savings if you have younger children. Summer clothing tends to go on sale in late summer too. Remain vigilant of deals at your favourite back-to-school stores.

Keep your receipts

In general, it is good practice to keep all your receipts. The first purpose of this habit is to determine if you went over budget. You can also return items if you need to and recuperate costs.

Back to school spending and saving

The back-to-school season can be expensive. Make sure you plan before you start shopping to cut costs and stay within budget. Also, consider your payment options. The right credit card can help you save money and may offer rewards or cash back.

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Rewards credit cards offer loyalty points or cash back for your everyday spending — including pens, markers, binders, and backpacks. Other cards offer low interest rates, which can help you pay down the balance you may have accumulated over the summer. If used responsibly, your card can provide savings as you send your children back to class prepared for the new academic year.

Rates, product information and reward estimates are subject to change at any time and do not constitute financial advice. This post was not sponsored. RATESDOTCA may receive a referral fee from our partners or affiliate links featured on the site; however, our editorial choices are objective and free from bias. The opinions expressed in this article are purely those of RATESDOTCA; thus, the credit card issuers and partners are not responsible for any editorials or reviews that may appear. Please visit the associated website for complete and current terms and conditions on any product or service mentioned. The information in this article is accurate as of the date of this posting, August 19, 2021. Read our full disclaimer.

Veronica Ott

Veronica Ott specializes in personal finance, accounting and business-related writing. Veronica obtained her undergraduate degree in accounting from Western University. She completed her CPA designation shortly after, which was where she discovered her passion for writing in the world of business. Veronica has been working with various blogs and websites over the past three years. In addition to writing, Veronica works as an accountant. In both of her careers, Veronica’s goal is to help others become financially literate and achieve their monetary goals.

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