The kids' back-to-school list is long and your patience is running short.
You want to save money but is it really worth the effort?
I’m here to show you it is and how to save time and money.
Some school supplies are at the lowest prices of the year in August but you can save more by following these tips:
- Follow the general rules of Black Friday, such as coming up with a game plan, a budget and taking the sales circulars with you. Don't forget to fully charge your phone.
- Make a list of everything you need. If you can't find your child's list online, Target has school supply lists available at most stores and a School List Assist feature online. Walmart has teacher lists on its app and online.
- If your state has a sales tax holiday, educate yourself on what's tax free and what isn’t. Have the list of eligible items handy.
- Compare prices. Start with a simple Google search of the product you want or use a price-comparison website. Or, use the Amazon app or a competitor.
- Use coupons and rewards programs. The coupons are another good reason to bring the ads with you. You also can find coupons on store websites and apps.
- Earn points and rewards with store loyalty programs which equate to money off a future purchase.
- Use a credit card that offers price protection or a price tracking service like Paribus or Earny, and if the price drops, you might be able to score a refund.
One of the easiest ways to grab a deal – and avoid driving to multiple stores – is by price matching.
- Read store policies, which outline how to request a match both at the store and online.
- Some retailers, like Kohl's, require you to bring the physical newspaper advertisements to customer service desk for a price match. Others allow you to price match competitors’ online prices including Amazon.
- Timing matters. The price usually has to be valid at the time of match, and the item has to be in stock by the competitor.
- It has to be an identical item, brand name, size and model number. For online prices, third-party sellers are excluded.
- Beware of other exclusions. Target, for instance, notes competitor doorbusters and lightning sales, are excluded.
- When in doubt, ask to speak to a store manager.
Beat the crowds and reap the benefits.
- Always look for coupon codes and free shipping and read return policies.
- Avoid shipping fees by using in-store pickup. Stores that offer this option include Best Buy, JC Penney, Kmart, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears, Staples, Target and Walmart.
- Earn cash back on purchases. Use websites such as Ebates.com, TopCashback.com or your credit card’s portal to earn a percentage of your purchase back. Ebates offers in-store cashback at a growing number of stores when you link your credit card to your account.
- Browser extensions like Honey and RetailMeNot.com Genie are another way to earn cashback and find coupons.
- Smartphone app Ibotta also offers cash back rebates in-store and at select websites including Amazon. Also check out Shopkick to earn points or "kicks" which you can redeem for gift cards.
Always check your receipt before leaving the store. You should also keep receipts for:
- Easier exchanges or returns. If the store is out of a size or a color you want, see if you can exchange the item for the right size and color once it’s in stock.
- Price adjustments. If an item you bought goes on sale within the week or two after, some stores will credit you the difference.
- For submitting rebates. If you buy an item that’s eligible for a rebate, make sure to submit the rebate or it won't be a good deal. If you’re not going to follow through, consider looking for another sale.
- Digitize the receipts using apps like ReceiptHog and ReceiptPal, which also helps track spending.
- In the days leading up to the new school year, stores will have some of the best prices on essentials such as notebook paper and notebooks.
- Stock up to avoid having to pay full price in the middle of the school year.
- Consider donating extra school supplies to a school supply drive.
- In a few weeks, plan to shop clearance racks when school supplies and clothes will be marked down. For young children, buy the next size in clothes when the price is right.
Kelly Tyko is a consumer columnist and retail reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Read her Bargainista tips at TCPalm.com/Bargainista, follow her on Twitter @KellyTyko and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.tcpalm.com/featured-newsletter/bargainistabest.
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