August marks back-to-school season across North Carolina. This year, the cost of school supplies is expected to hit record highs. Experts say this is due to inflation, supply chain shortages from the pandemic, and the need for electronics due to concerns that students may return to online learning.
According to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation, overall back-to-school shopping this year will be 22 percent higher per family than last year. Specifically, spending for school supplies, clothing, and electronics for K-12 will increase to $849 per family and to $1200 per college family.
This double-digit increase is likely to impact your spending plan and it may put some families into debt.
As a resource, here are ways 7 Ways to Save on Back-to-School and Back-to-College Expenses to help stretch your money and avoid additional debt as you shop for needed supplies.
Consider Local and Pre-owned
Local online marketplaces and social media groups can be a big resource for families, especially for high-priced items. For example, a TI-83 graphing calculator can set you back more than $100. Finding a used item online in your local area could save you 50 percent or more. Also, there are online groups created by students at many colleges where you can find used furniture, pre-owned books, and ride-share opportunities. And, of course, ask family and friends for any items they may have but no longer need. Shopping for pre-owned items can help cut expenses and save you money.
Take Inventory at Your Home
Before you leave the house to shop, look in old backpacks and closets for items you already have (and can reuse) such as glue sticks, crayons, pencil cases, and binders. You may even find a protractor or compass, must-haves for elementary and middle school students. This strategy can help save you money that can be used toward other necessities like sneakers or lunchboxes.
Ask Retailers about Student Discounts
This is a bit of a retail secret: many stores have student discounts but do not advertise them. Always ask a sales person when you arrive at the store or, if you are online shopping, use the chat feature to ask. The most common discounts are 10 percent but can go as high as 60 percent. To get the student discount, you will need to share a student ID (with your student present) or verify a school email address. Be sure to ask about student discounts!
Buy in Bulk
There are standard items that students need throughout K-12 that can be bought in bulk at a club store, discount outlet or online store. These supplies typically include composition notebooks, pens, pencils, binders, whiteboard markers, tissues, paper and folders. This strategy will help your family get a lower price per item, avoid supply shortages, and help your student have what they need for next year, too. All told, this tip will help you save both time and money.
Build Up Cash Rewards
This may be the easiest option to help save money for back-to-school expenses. During the year, use a credit card with cashback rewards for your everyday items such as food, online subscriptions or gas. Most cashback rewards programs offer earning potential between one and five percent, depending on the card. And some checking accounts provide ways to earn dividends on your account balance. By the time August rolls around, you will have earned extra cash to help offset the cost of clothing, shoes, or supplies for your child’s classroom.
Share Parking Passes
Families of older students can expect to pay up for a parking space. The average cost of a parking pass at many colleges is more than $200 per semester. High School students can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $75 per year. To help cut costs, there may be opportunities for students to rideshare and split the cost of a parking sticker. Pay attention to the different rules and regulations at your school to know what is allowed and what is not allowed. Most rules require one licensed driver and their registered car with proof of insurance to get one parking space. Check the rules for your school. Getting creative on parking can save you a lot of money.
Look for Local Giveaway Events
From churches to community centers, North Carolinians are helping families get the school supplies they need. Search your local area for sweepstakes or back-to-school giveaways to score big on backpacks and school supplies for your child. Do an online search or check your local news for events in your area.
The back-to-school season can be stressful for students, parents and caregivers, alike. Saving money on school supplies can help reduce your stress, keep your spending plan in check, and give your student the resources they need for a successful school year.
Disclaimer: You + Money posts are provided for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of a financial, legal or accounting advisor.