Beyond the Bin: 10 Cool Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping
Buying back-to-school supplies, clothes, sneakers, backpacks and lunch sacks is about to require me to refinance my house. Considering that I only have two kids and they have to wear uniforms (which are cheaper than designer duds!), I should count my blessings. I have a friend who has eight kids-seven of whom are in school. I started wondering, How do moms of big families, or for that matter, mom of anysize family, save on back-to-school shopping?
So I started asking around and searching the web for the best tips, tricks and advice. Here are 10 of the best. They go beyond the typical "Look for sales in your local area" to give you some more unique ideas. Hopefully there are at least a few that are new to you!
- Add Honey, the Chrome extension. Honey adds a new button to your checkout page at any of more than 100 stores, including Amazon, Kohl's and Sears. With a simple click, Honey will search the web and apply the best coupon code(s) or deal to save you money on your purchase. As Time magazine says, "It's basically free money." You can also earn cash back. Just shop at any of thousands of stores that support the Honey extension and if there's a cash back offer, the Honey button will appear at checkout. Just click the "Activate Cash Bonus" before you finish your purchase.
- Shop on a sales tax holiday. Nearly 20 states now offer anywhere from two to seven days of tax-free shopping on certain items. For example, in Texas, May 28-30 and August 5-7 were the tax-free days to shop in 2016. Specifically, during the August three-day holiday, you could purchase clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks for elementary and secondary students without paying sales tax. Those savings can really help a tight budget!
- Co-op with other families. Buying in bulk at places like Costco and Sam's Club is great, but what if you don't need 100 red pens? Create a plan to buy school supplies and divide them up with other families.
- Use cash back websites. Start all your online school shopping at sites like Ebates, which offers cash back and even double cash back at all the major stores. Right now you'll earn 2% cash back on qualifying purchases at Walmart.com, 6% cash back at JCPenney.com, 10% at Samsung.com and 10% at Dell.com just for starting at Ebates. The Penny Hoarder offers a good list of cash back sites HERE.
- Sign up for text-to-get coupon programs. Most major stores now offer "texting clubs" that allow customers to receive mobile coupons on their smart phone. For example, if you text the word "JOIN" to 32453, American Eagle Outfitters will send you coupons via text message. For Famous Footwear, text the word "PROMO" to 326687. For Kmart, text "KMART" to 414141. You can often find these text codes on stores' websites, but there's also a good list
- Use professional and courtesy discounts. Did you know that Overstock.com offers free Club O Gold memberships for free to active military and veterans, teachers, students and first responders? The Club O Gold membership gives you reward dollars, free shipping on all orders, early access to deals, email offers, up to 40% cash back and more. There are sites that list stores offering discounts to specific professions and groups, including: GovX, which lists discounts for current and former military, first responders and law enforcement; Gift Card Granny lists 81 stores that give discounts to teachers; and The Simple Dollar lists 60 places you can get a discount just for showing a student ID (so bring your college kid with you when you do your shopping!).
- Buy discounted gift cards. Places like Cardpool.com sell discounted gift cards for up to 35% off. (You can also sell your unwanted gift cards for up to 92% cash back.) Right now, for example, you can buy a $25 Gap gift card for $21.75 (13% off), or a $25 Old Navy gift card for $21.12 (15.5% off).
- Download a price comparison app. Free apps like Shop Savvy let you scan a barcode or search for a product to find out which of 40,000+ stores has the best price. You can even create a shopping list and Shop Savvy will automatically watch the items on your list for the lowest prices. SnipSnap lets you snap a photo of a product in order to get coupons, mobile rebates, best prices and price-match opportunities.
- Price match over 100%. Price matching isn't just for groceries. Some stores like Staples offer a 110% Price Match Guarantee certain times of the year. (Staples' current 110% guarantee is in effect until September 17, 2016.) The Krazy Coupon Lady has an example of using the Staples offer to price match a 12 count of Bic Ballpoint Pens. Staples was charging $1.00, but Office Depot/Office Max was advertising the same 12 count of pens for $.25. So Staples matched the price, plus gave her 10% of the difference ($.75) which was rounded up to $.08. The final price? $.17 for the box of pens. Fry's Electronics (which sells office supplies, computers, art supplies and more) will refund 110% of the difference if you see a competitor with a lower price. Other stores that price match over 100%: Shoplet.com, BrandsMart.com, eBags.com, OnlineShoes.com.
- Get a refund when prices drop. Paribus tracks the price changes associated with your online purchases. When it spots a price drop, it follows the store's special procedures to file a claim for you. Paribus takes a 25% commission, but you only pay it based on the money they get back for you.
Do you have a great tip to help other parents save money on back-to-school supplies? Please share it in the comments below.