Retailers are pulling out every trick in the book to lure you in for back-to-school shopping. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you hit the stores.
The average family with a child in kindergarten through 12th grade is expected to spend about $674 on everything from pens to computers this year, up 9.6 percent from last year, and up 55 percent from a decade ago, according to the National Retail Federation.
So it wouldn’t be smart to visit the shops blindly, just because they’re offering deals that may appear to be too good to be true (10 pens for a penny?).
We grilled the experts to find out what you need to know before you shop so you won’t be schooled.
Choose one store. Instead of spending a day going from store to store, stick with one only, said Sarah Berger, blogger with the Cashlorette, which focuses on saving and growing your money. “If you’re concerned that you might be missing out on a really good deal at another store, many retailers including Target and Office Depot/Office Max match competitors’ prices,” Berger said. Staples has a 110 percent price match guarantee until September 17, and stores that aren’t advertising a price match may do it if you ask, Berger said.
Use the right credit card. Some credit cards are targeted for back-to-school shopping, said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst with CardHub, a credit card comparison website. The best rewards card on the market right now offers a $500 initial bonus, and the best 0 percent credit card waives interest on new purchases for 21 months.
Take advantage of the sales. Yes, they really are for real. “This is the one time of year when the sales are actually just plain good,” Gonzalez said. “Supply store chains like Staples and Office Depot have hit some hard times within the last few years, and now this is prime time for them.” The back-to-school sales are a way for stores to bring shoppers in while getting rid of as much inventory as possible.
Buy online, pick up in the store. Many of the hot items, and especially the sale items, tend to sell out before you can make it into the store. So take advantage of the store’s offers to buy online as soon as the store opens and pick up items in the store _ to make sure you’re going to be one of the few to snag the deals, said Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst with Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Use a price-comparison site. When you’re shopping online, always use a price-comparison site such as PriceGrabber. “Just because something is advertised as being heavily discounted or marked down, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good deal,” Berger said. Deal-sharing websites such as FatWallet are also helpful because members post deals and discounts, with a heavy emphasis on back-to-school shopping, said Andrew Schrage, shopping expert and editor for Money Crashers.
Ask about rain checks. Miss a good sale because the store is sold out? Many will offer you a rain check if you ask, said Andrew Schrage, shopping expert and editor for Money Crashers, a website about making wise financial decisions that is aimed at educated readers.