Secrets to Saving Big on Back-to-School Shopping

Secrets to Saving Big on Back-to-School Shopping

August 13, 2017

In honor of the first day of school being right around the corner, we thought we’d start off this blog with a pop quiz:

How much, on average, do parents spend in back-to-school prep?

  • A.    $300
  • B.    $550
  • C.    $760 

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, if you answered C you’d be right on the money. Now here’s the really surprising part: That’s per child.

Gearing up for another year of learning can get expensive quickly. The good news is, there are nearly as many ways to save as there are to spend:


Before you buy anything, take stock of what you have. This means looking at clothes that still fit, shoes in good shape, and coats that could weather another season. Whatever you can save for future use now means fewer things to buy later. To bolster or dress up casual shorts and tees, consider mixing and matching with what you currently own.


Grab a bunch of your parents from the neighborhood and host an annual clothes swap —especially if your friends and neighbors have kids of the same gender, but opposite ages. You can make a whole night of it — drinks, food, music, etc. It’s fun, plus it’s a great way to bring the neighborhood together to celebrate the end of summer!


You might not have thought about buying basic supplies like pencils and paper during your weekly trip to the supermarket or grocery store.  But oftentimes, these are available at a reasonable price. Added bonus: you’ll save time and money by buying groceries and school supplies on the same trip.


Most teachers hand out a supply list at the start of a new school year — and that list is daunting enough. Don’t waste time and money on things that aren’t on it. Trust the teachers -- they've spent a lot of time and effort compiling everything your child(ren) will need.


This is the hard part, especially with so many options, but sticking to a set budget helps eliminate unnecessary or impulsive purchases. Using actual cash instead of a credit card can be helpful (visit a friendly Northwestern Bank location), or use an exclusive debit account for back-to-school shopping (establish a set amount per child based on their age and supply needs).


This is really something to keep in mind for next year, since Iowa’s tax-free weekend already happened on Aug. 4-5 (it usually takes place the first weekend of August each year).

The tax-free weekend is exactly what it sounds like: for any item of clothing and footwear under $100, you’ll be charged zero tax.  Even if you missed this year’s holiday, plenty of stores are holding “end-of-summer” sales. Be sure to hit those up.

And of course, use common sense when it comes to any sale or tax-free holidays. You’ll still want to compare prices, use coupons, and ultimately decide if that 6-to-7 percent off is actually a good deal. Good luck!


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