Amid inflation, shop early for back to school — but not all at once

(NerdWallet) – Just as school-aged kids head into summer vacation, the state of the economy is forcing many parents to put back-to-school shopping on the radar early.

In fact, 87% of K-12 shoppers say current economic conditions will impact how they shop this year, up from 80% in 2021, according to recent data collected by National Retail. Federation.

The price of almost everything is on the rise, with inflation hitting 8.6% year-over-year in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.

“Inflation is a very personal experience,” says Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights for the NRF. Tough economic times are forcing consumers to make certain compromises that work for their families, she says.

What is considered “back to school necessities” will vary from household to household. But regardless of your financial situation, the general advice from experts is to spread out your shopping this season and look for creative ways to save.

Don’t throw away sales flyers

For those looking to cut costs this year, Cullen suggests not only shopping early, but also paying more attention to sales and promotions. “If you see something you’re comfortable buying at a certain price, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and grab it,” she says.

Keep an eye out for weekly mailings from your favorite stores all summer long. Make a habit of scanning them for deals on school supplies, clothes, and electronics before you throw them away. Look online too.

“Check retailer websites and sign up for newsletters to be alerted to the best deals,” Kristen Gall, retail and in-store expert at cashback app Rakuten, said in an email.

Using cash back apps like Rakuten, Ibotta, CoinOut and others is a popular way for diligent shoppers to save.

Spread the races

Brick-and-mortar businesses will do all they can to get back-to-school shoppers through their doors this summer.

“When money is on people’s minds like it is now, chances are you’ll see some very aggressive discounting just to get people back into stores,” says Simon Blanchard, associate professor at McDonough of Georgetown University. Business school.

But you can beat the stores at their own game with a little discipline. That is, walk in, grab the big discount items, and walk out before you put more stuff in your shopping cart.

While it might be nice to tackle the whole back-to-school list in one trip, resisting the urge to buy it all now will help you make the most of the sales, says Blanchard.

This approach is in line with 43% of K-12 shoppers who say their strategy is to shop for sales more frequently this back-to-school season, up from 36% last year, according to NRF data.

Shop the summer sales

High-profile seasonal sales might be the best way to reduce inflationary increases on bigger items like laptops (or at least bring the price down to Earth).

And the big summer event, Amazon Prime Day, is now confirmed for July 12 and 13. Search Amazon and other retailer websites for back-to-school necessities during the sale. Prime Day is sure to spark competing sales at stores like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy.

But advice on how to shop for summer sales depends on how much cash you have, says Blanchard. Getting a bargain on a new laptop in July might not be worth it if you plan to charge for it and you already have credit card debt. The 18% or 20% interest rate on the card will likely wipe out the money saved, he says.

Waiting until later in the year, when you might have more cash on hand, might be the best bet whether prices go up or not.

Reuse what you can

You don’t always have to buy new. Some parents may also be weighing the idea of ​​repurposing tech products they already own, like laptops and calculators, Cullen says. Passing items on to younger siblings is another tactic parents can use to save money, she says.

Spend less on clothes

Clothes and shoes are popular back-to-school purchases, and the amount consumers are spending on them has increased in recent years, according to data from the NRF.

It can be difficult to withdraw here, but you can set limits.

A pair of shoes and one or two outfits for each child can be enough to start the year off right. You can reassess your children’s needs in the fall and take advantage of Veterans Day and Black Friday deals.

Thrift stores also make good options. You can usually find almost new clothes, and that’s a bonus if your kid is down for vintage. Resale sites like also offer affordable clothing, even school uniforms.

Whatever you do, don’t let the pressure of inflation push you to spend outside your comfort zone. Spread out back-to-school shopping and get creative to save the most money.

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