According to the National Retail Federation, parents spend an average of about $600 to send their kids back to school. Obviously that's more than glue sticks and folders. So what are the necessities and what stuff can parents skip in order to save money? Here's what the pros categorize as essential and frivolous.
Just as soon as the fireworks fade those back-to-school displays seem to start popping up at Target, Wal-mart and every other big box retailer. But just because they appear doesn't mean you should immediately start hoarding folders, notebooks and pencils. Experts agree you'll actually get better deals the longer you wait. Obviously you want your student to be ready for day one, but you'll see significant savings closer to the first day of school.
Despite being in the age of the iPad, most kids still have some textbooks to cart around from class to class. DealNews.com analyzed data from last summer's deals and found that August was the best time to buy a backpack. Prices typically plunged and many online retailers offered free shipping plus discounts. So if you can wait until the tail end of summer you'll likely be able to save money on this purchase.
This is probably one of the biggest line items on your back-to-school shopping list. Your kids likely want the hottest brands and styles which can rack up at the register pretty quickly. Consumer savings expert Jeanette Pavini suggests setting your budget before you hit the mall and be prepared for finicky kids to change their minds. "Keep all your receipts and return anything kids haven’t worn the first month of school, winter gear excluded," says Pavini. "If your children wear uniforms, team up with other parents to buy in bulk."
They may not be on the teacher's list of must-have school supplies, but jeans certainly are on your child's list. However, according to Pavini, if you can hold out for new jeans until the fall you'll likely get a much better bargain. "By October, stores need to clear out back to school clothes and make room for holiday inventory so look for denim in the clearance racks," says Pavini.
If you've got a student heading to college, you may have even more on your shopping list. Although dorm rooms tend to be tiny, they still require things like bedding, chairs and microwaves. Organizing pro Jennie Dusina says that if you buy items now that can transition into your child's post-college apartment you'll save more money in the long run. "Purchase items that can be used even after college. Bookcases, drawer systems and containers are great investments because they'll withstand the four years of college plus, will last after in the real world," says Dusina of Organized Living.
Gadgets and Computers
Even though your child may beg for an iPad or claim that they can't succeed academically without a new laptop, these aren't typically back-to-school essentials. While experts say that July and August tend to be great months for scoring computer deals, that doesn't automatically mean these are necessities. In fact some teachers may not allow gadgets in their classroom so before investing in a pricey product like this make sure you know the rules.