The coronavirus has changed what shopping looks like, as well as what types of things are now on the shopping list. For this year, whether attending school in-person or virtually, there are some essential supplies that kids will need. To make sure you’re being efficient and not breaking the bank, we’ve compiled some tips to help make back-to-school shopping as stress-free and affordable as possible.
Check Your Inventory
Do you even need to go supply shopping? What types of unused supplies do you have around the house?
It’s natural that stuff gets pushed to the back of closets or buried and forgotten deep in a drawer. Those items are still perfectly useable (and it’s very possible your kids won’t even know the difference). See if you can reallocate your fifth-grader’s backpack to your second-grader.
Additionally, have your children try on last year’s clothing to determine what needs to be replaced now or what can wait until Christmas or their next birthday. You can also look into clothes-swaps or consignment shops in your area if it’s necessary to refresh their wardrobe.
The same goes for sports or hobby equipment. Network with other parents in your circle to see what, if anything, can be traded or even bought at a hefty discount.
Check online ads and retailers’ emails for the best prices, and keep an eye out for coupons (at places like Staples, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Target, Office Depot, Dollar Tree, etc.).
Buying in bulk can also help to cut down on price-per-item (and you can squirrel away some for the next year unbeknownst to your children).
Also, don’t forget to ask about price matching! If you are being cautious this shopping season, these things can be done online for most retailers. For example, when price matching online, you typically only need to begin a chat with a customer service rep and simply ask if they have the capability to match with another store’s cheaper price or even offer you a promo code to make up the difference – you can also ask if they have a military discount code for you.
Speaking of being cautious, if you are opting for in-person school this semester, make sure to get the necessary safety supplies, like masks and hand sanitizer. You can get affordable and fashionable masks from places like Old Navy, the Disney store, Nordstrom, Target, or various retailers on amazon, just to name a few.
Don’t Do It Alone
If your spouse can take leave to do any in-person shopping, let that happen. If your teenager can do her own online shopping, let her (making sure to check it over before hitting confirm). Don’t take on all the responsibility – and therefore the stress – of this time of year all by yourself.
If you have to take your children with you to shop for supplies or clothes, make sure to set ground rules to make the trip smoother. Things like, “You can get a new lunchbox OR a new backpack,” or “You can choose one item with a name brand or popular character,” can help to cut down on meltdowns in the store aisles.
If they get an allowance, make them use their own money to buy those must-have, trendy items.
And make sure to write a list and stick to it. Don’t let impulse buys overtake you or your little ones.
Reconsider Your Shopping Date
Sometimes, schools send home next year’s shopping list at the end of the previous school year or they are posted online months ahead of the first day of school.
As previously said, retailers tend to run back-to-school sales events, and that typically means prices will be bumped up due to demand. Shopping out of the typical cycle can mean you get a much bigger bang for your buck.
In terms of clothing, shop seasonally – buy winter clothes at the beginning of spring when stores mark it down to clear out inventory.
If this is too late for this year’s consideration, keep it in mind for next year.
Samantha Cain has 10 years of experience as a freelance writer and content creator, specializing in a variety of topics such as higher education, personal finance, event planning, DIY projects, and military life. She holds a BA in English, is working towards an MS in Higher Education, and has been a military spouse for eight years. Having lived on a number of overseas military bases, she brings a unique perspective to her writing and strives to provide quality and beneficial information to the military community.