(BPT) - The new school year is quickly approaching, and shoppers are expected to spend $83.6 billion dollars on clothing, supplies and other school items according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. The study also found that the average family surveyed plans to spend $687 on back-to-school shopping or $969 to head back to college, per child, which means looking for discounts and deals will be key to staying on budget.
From the kindergarten classroom to the college dorm, here are five tips to get the most for your money while staying on budget during back-to-school shopping:
1. Buy used: Hit the pavement to scour consignment shops, thrift stores and garage sales, or fire up an internet search to purchase gently used college textbooks, dorm room décor and other necessities. Friends, family and neighbors with kids of various ages also can be a great resource. Before buying new, consider organizing a swap with your friends that gives everyone the opportunity to clean out closets or storage boxes to help each other prepare for the upcoming school year.
2. Use discounted gift cards: Whether you're buying new uniforms, updating the wardrobe or stocking up on pencils, notebooks and electronics, look for discounted gift cards to your favorite stores at Cardpool.com. Cardpool is a gift card exchange company, so if someone receives a gift card he or she doesn't plan to use, Cardpool will buy it at a little less than face value to sell it at a discount. Look for gift cards from popular back-to-school retailers, including Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy and Target. As an added bonus, you can stack coupons with discounted gift cards to double or triple savings.
3. Look for tax holidays: Many states have a sales tax holiday in July or August when shoppers can buy items without paying sales tax. Pick up clothing, computers and more and save money by not paying the sales tax. Each state's tax holiday is different, so look for the dates and eligibility guidelines online.
4. Swap credit cards for network-branded gift cards:Using a Visa or Mastercard gift card instead of a credit card also can help you stick to your budget. Instead of racking up charges, these gift cards let you load available funds and track your purchases. Once the value runs out, you'll know you've hit your budget. Look for the Five Back Visa gift card, too, in order to earn 5 percent of your purchases back to your card when shopping at participating merchants. It works like a regular Visa gift card and is accepted where U.S. Visa cards are accepted, including online.
5. Be patient: The big rush to buy school supplies occurs in August, and then again in January, when many students go back to school after the winter holiday. By avoiding peak times and buying after the rush, when items often go on sale, you can save a lot of money.
Bonus tip:Clean out the back of your wallet and catch-all kitchen drawer to find gift cards you're not planning to use that you can sell for extra back-to-school spending money. Using Cardpool.com, sellers can accept a direct purchase offer from Cardpool or list the gift card at a price chosen by the seller on the Marketplace for other users to purchase. You also can sell an unwanted gift card at a Cardpool partner retailer, like Target, where they'll purchase the gift card you don't plan to use and load the proceeds on a Target gift card.
With a bit of planning for the back-to-school shopping season, and by incorporating these budget strategies and unique money-saving tricks, you can save money on everything kids need to hit the books this fall.