When it comes to back-to-school shopping, there are some well-known, basic tips: shop sales, look at circulars and hold off as long as you can keeping in mind that when prices go down, your selection will be more limited.
Today we’re going to look at some outside the box back-to-school shopping tips. These are things you may not immediately think of, but can save you big money either in the short- or long-term.
Get Organized with Daycare Expenses
While you’re getting your entire life organized for the first day of school, it’s smart to get your finances organized, too. If your kids go to daycare in the summer, or do paid afterschool programs at a daycare facility, use this time of mass organization to get a pulse on your expenses for the year.
Gather all your receipts and proofs of payment now. Get a dedicated spot for them with your tax paperwork. Come Spring, you will need them to claim the Credit for Child and Dependent Care Expenses or FSA deductions if you have one offered by your employer.
If you have an FSA, getting familiar with your actual expenses now can help you plan for how much you want to set aside in 2017. Remember, any money you set aside but don’t use throughout the year will just disappear.
Get this paperwork organized now so that you’re not guessing when you’re making your goals for 2017 or scrambling around for yet another piece of paperwork needed for tax filing in April.
Use Student and Educator Discounts
If you’re a college student, many places will give you a student discount if you sign up for their program with your .edu email address. This includes discounts on major purchases like laptops.
If you’re an educator, remember that many places will give you discount, too. Maybe you sign up with your .edu email address, but many businesses will award you the discount at checkout if you show your school employee ID. All programs are a little different, so check before you shop, but know that not all of them limit the educator discount to only teachers. If you are a classroom aide, support specialist, or hold another job in the educational setting, you may qualify, even if you are just buying supplies for your own kids.
Get Rewarded for Your Spend
Back-to-school shopping provides the highest amount of revenue all year second only to Christmas. That’s not just because a lot of people are doing it; it’s because a lot of the essentials are expensive.
If you are spending a lot of money anyways, and you are responsible with credit cards, you might as well put your spend on a card that is going to reward you. For example, right now if you spend $1,500 on your PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card within the first 90 days of opening your account, you get a $100 bonus statement credit. This card not only offers 5X points on gas purchases paid at the pump, 3X points on groceries, but also 1X points on everything else, which includes school supplies. Those points will add up fast and you can redeem them for a variety of rewards.
While I wouldn’t advocate spending $1,500 exclusively on back-to-school shopping unless you absolutely have to (i.e. you’re a college student who requires a laptop or specific software program,) back-to-school shopping is certainly an added expense that will help you organically reach that minimum spend much more quickly.
Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need
This may seem obvious, but if you don’t need something, don’t buy it. If you’re lucky and your kiddo hasn’t outgrown their jeans from last school year, there’s no commandment saying you must buy them something new.
Also in this, though, is that you don’t have to buy brand names—especially for younger kids where social pressures are not as high. For example, with my own young children, I buy them shoes at WalMart. They’re not going to last as long as Air Jordans, but their feet are going to grow out of them before they’ve expended their usefulness anyways.
Get a Backpack with a Warrantee
The last time we bought backpacks was when we went on our honeymoon to Tulum. We were sure to buy a very specific brand that has a warrantee. It’s lifelong, so if the zipper ever goes or one of them tears, they’ll fix it or give us a new one free of charge. That means we spent the money once, and will never have to spend it again.
What are some outside the box back-to-school saving methods that you use in your household?
*This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union*