Are you ready? It’s School Supply Shopping Time!

With the July 4th holiday barely over, retailers are already promoting deals on Back-to-School supplies. As cash-strapped school districts shift more of the supply cost burden to parents, families with school-aged children are looking for ways to save money. According to the National Retail Foundation, the average family with children in K-12 grades spent $630 on school supplies last year! We would all like to spend a lot less money than that, so here are some tips to keep more cash in your pocket.

1. Make a List Early and “Shop” at Home First
Most schools publish a list of necessary school supplies on their websites and/or email the list to parents. Savvy retailers have supply lists on-site at stores, too. Back-to-School supply aisles can be as alluring as toy departments, so having a list can keep both parents and children on task. Look around for supply staples left over from the previous school year, such as rulers, index cards, notebook paper, highlighters, pens and pencils. Use this as a teachable moment with your child, as money saved may translate into purchase of a higher quality backpack, or an especially desired item of back-to-school clothing.

2. Shop Wisely
Bargain-hunting parents swear by stores with price-match guarantees. Target and Staples will match prices from brick-and-mortar stores and retail sites such as Amazon. (Note: The competitor’s ad or other proof of the lower price for the same item is needed.) matches prices and refunds 10 percent of the difference if another store has it for less. Also, Walmart launched Savings Catcher last year. If you enter your receipt on Walmart’s website within a week of purchase, the site will search for competitor’s prices from the past week. If a lower price is found, you’ll get an e-gift card for the difference. And, ShopSavvy has an app that will scan a product’s bar code to ensure you are getting the best deal. Don’t ignore supermarkets, drugstores, dollar stores and crafts stores, either. Many will offer great deals on basics, such as crayons and notebooks.

3. Take Advantage of Back-to-School Tax Breaks
If you are fortunate enough to live in one of a number of states that holds a Back-to-School Tax Holiday, make sure you take advantage of it. Check the guidelines though, as each state is slightly different. Some limit the amount of purchase, or some may only include specific items. Regardless, it is worth checking out. The savings can be significant.

4. Organize a Post Back-to-School Supply Swap Event
The idea works like this. Parents bring new or good condition school supplies to these events and trade with other parents for items they need. Holding an event after the school year begins allows families to pick up items that are still needed and trade surplus supplies. Talk with your Parent Teacher Association/Organization about having an event in your area. It would be a great mixer! Recycle/Reuse groups, such as Freecycle could also be useful.