Parents, your homework is almost due.
As the final stages of summer begin, back-to-school prep is reaching its most critical stretch.
Connecting your kids with what they’ll need for the classroom is always a balancing act between finding what’s available and staying within budget. This year, because of potential school supply shortages, making the grade may mean acting faster and spending more.
Similar to what was seen in 2020, the pandemic is forcing manufacturers of popular school supplies to play catch-up. Sneakers, backpacks, computers, and tablets – they’re each harder to find right now because of closures related to COVID-19.
With supplies running low and demand remaining high, prices are expected to skyrocket.
Families with school-age children are projected to spend close to $850 on back-to-school supplies this this year, according to a report from the National Retail Federation. That’s roughly $60 more than what was spent on those items in 2020.
College students and their families are likely to see their expense total climb even higher. They’re expected to shell out an average of $1,200 on supplies this fall, which is a $140 jump over last year.
So, what can you do? You need supplies but you don’t necessarily want spend a fortune. These tips can help you minimize costs and trust what you’re getting this back-to-school season.
Go with what you know.
Even when they aren’t experiencing a shortage, items like laptops, tablets, and other tech products are a significant financial investment. Depending on the brand, backpacks, clothes, and shoes can be as well.
So, don’t gamble on an unknown retailer. Lean on establishments you’ve used previously and had positive experiences purchasing your higher-priced supplies. Familiarity is one of the most effective ways to ensure you’re getting a fairly priced, quality product. Plus, if something does go wrong you can count on solid customer service. If you find yourself on an online company you aren’t familiar with, look them up on BBB.org to view vetted customer reviews, complaint patterns and potential consumer alerts.
If you’re shopping with a favorite retailer online, just confirm you’re using the site you think you’re using. Fake websites often use the name, logo, and look of established businesses, especially if they sell in-demand products. Carefully look over the site to confirm you’re where you’re supposed to be.
Research before you buy big.
Speaking of high-dollar tech items, make sure you’re shopping for what your kids actually need. More than 60% of consumers are reportedly expecting at least some classes to be held online this fall, and many schools have technology requirements that could dictate what should end up on your shopping list. Check to see what those look like for your student.
It may also be a good idea to set a budget and find out what other capabilities your kids may need beyond what’s required. Once that’s established, make a purchasing decision based on customer reviews and price points.
Get to bargaining.
Discounts on in-demand back-to-school items are available, and they can really help cut down on costs. Several popular tech companies offer lower rates to customers who have a student ID or .edu email address. Getting a discounted rate may mean signing up for marketing materials or spending time searching for coupons, but those could be small prices to pay for savings that could really add up. Some retailers even price-match if you find a lower price with a competitor.
If you’re a parent of a younger student, buying in bulk may be a way to lower expenses, too. It’s often cheaper to buy larger supplies of items like paper towels, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and snacks. So, think about stocking up for the long-term, or even coordinating bulk-shopping with other parents, as a way of cutting costs.
Those discounts may have a deadline, though. Many of the products you’re targeting are likely on other parents’ radars as well. Because supplies are limited, try to move with some speed so you don’t miss out on any discounts.
Use caution when approaching low costs.
Not every deal is a good deal. In fact, some of those low, low prices you encounter online may not be deals at all.
Misleading clickbait ads that promote popular items at reduced rates appear when demand outpaces supply. Those spots may even mirror ones posted by legitimate retailers. The operators behind those fraudulent ads hope you’ll be interested enough to click the link and get taken another website where you’ll enter your personal information.
Back-to-school shoppers are being asked to make quick decisions and settle for higher price tags right now. The surest way to find a deal on supplies for your kids this fall is to lean on businesses you know you can trust − take the time to research all the available options.
Are you on the hunt for school supplies? If so, let us know how things are going. Leave a comment to tell us what tips or tricks have helped you shop for fall.