Your Money Matters: Back to school shopping tips

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Lindsay Sakraida, Director of Content Marketing, DealNews

Back-to-School Shopping Do’s and Don’ts:

DO: Set a budget well in advance
Don't wait until the week before school begins to look at your finances and decide what you can afford to spend. Start planning now and allocating resources accordingly. That way, you'll know exactly how much cash you have to work with. And you'll avoid overspending and resorting to credit cards if you run out of money.

DO: Make a shopping list
Make a list of everything your student will need before perusing the sales circulars. Remember, the keyword here is "need." Some items to include on your list: school supplies, apparel, footwear, backpack, lunch box, and so on.

DO: Shop sales
You may want to start shopping right away to get a head start and avoid the crowds. The problem is the best back-to-school sales usually don't surface until early August. So, it pays to wait a bit before hitting the stores.

DON’T: Assume the sale price is a bargain
Retailers can be sneaky with pricing. When there's a demand for certain items, they sometimes mark up the original price and apply a discount. This makes it appear as if you're saving money. Don't fall for this trap. Instead, use price comparison apps to determine if you're really getting the best deal.

DON’T: Buy everything right away
The extra markdowns typically aren't applied until after the rush dies down. Plus, most teachers don't require students to have every single item on their list on the first day, buying you a little more time to search for deals.

Ways to avoid falling for Back-to-School Shopping Tricks:

Run the numbers
Back-to-school sales may seem like a generous gesture by retailers, but the deals can be misleading. In fact, you'll find instances where the item is actually marked up in the ad, only to be discounted back down to the original price. To avoid getting ripped off, shop around or use a price comparison app.

Ignore the fancy displays
There's a reason why retailers invest so much money in displays. Image is everything with certain groups of customers. And the more appealing the display, the more attention it can garner, which equates to more sales. But if a featured item isn't on your list, leave it in the store.

Don’t apply for a credit card to fill the budget void
: If you’re running low on funds it is best to scale back on spending rather than applying for a credit card to make up the difference. Sure, it could give you more cushion to shop, and you could receive a 10% or 15% discount. But consider the steep APR and annual fee (if applicable) you'll have to pay in the future.

Be careful with “free” shipping offers
Free shipping isn’t always free. Oftentimes you will You'll need to spend a certain amount to take advantage of the deal. If a store is offering free shipping on $50 orders and you only have $25 worth of supplies in your cart, spending $25 more just to save on shipping completely defeats the purpose.