(BPT) - The long, hot summer vacation is almost over for most students. A new school year is here and for parents, the rush to load up on supplies can be expensive. In fact, the average family with school-aged children will spend $630 on back-to-school shopping, according to the National Retail Federation's (NFR) 2015 Survey.
This annual event doesn't have to bankrupt your wallet though. If you take advantage of the following tips, you can make the most of your money during this back-to-school shopping season.
Make this spending season a teaching moment. 'Giving your child access to a prepaid debit card can help you teach them valuable lessons about working with a budget,' says Molly Steele, associate vice president of debit cards at Navy Federal. 'Your child will have the freedom to choose what they want and as a bonus, you will be able to set a limit on how much spending will actually take place.'
Tap into your credit card rewards bank. The average Navy Federal cashRewards cardholder has $50 to $75 in unused cashback rewards. Take a look at your rewards bank and see if you can use your cash or points toward back-to-school items. What might have been a stressful experience can be eased simply by using the rewards you've already earned.
Spend and get - use a rewards credit card, earn valuable points or cash. Using a rewards credit card is like making an investment for the future. Or, more aptly, it's like earning an A on a pop quiz; it will certainly help you down the line! In just a few months, the rewards points you earned buying supplies, clothes and other school necessities can be used to fill out your needs for the rest of the school year, or buy gifts in December. Who said Santa has to get all the credit?
Renew, reuse, recycle. Before heading to the store with your child's back-to-school list, check around your house to see what items you already have. You might be surprised what can be found tucked away in the drawers of your computer desk. You may also want to connect with friends or neighbors to hold a yard swap. Trading gently used school supplies, books and backpacks doesn't just save you money, it could save a trip to the store altogether.
Timing is everything. Take advantage of sales tax holidays in your state as these events are often paired with discount sales. You should also consider shopping late. 'The NFR study found that 30 percent of back-to-school shoppers will wait until one or two weeks before the start of class to begin shopping,' said Thomas Racca, personal finance manager at Navy Federal. 'After the initial rush for supplies dies down, many retailers will offer deep discounts to make room for new seasonal merchandise.'
Extra credit: Go digital. Reclaim your phone from your child who has probably reached level one thousand on Candy Crush, and use it to hop on social media to follow your favorite stores and brands. Many retailers offer up coupons and advanced notice of special sales on Facebook or Twitter. You can also find coupons on retailer's websites. Or even better, send your kids on a scavenger hunt for coupons or sales while they're glued to the screen. If you make a game of it, you can then reward them with the purchase of a discounted desired item. It's important for kids to learn the value of things and the need to save money even when shopping.
The most important thing is to simply make a plan. Whether you're deciding which rewards program is best or just making a school supply list, sticking to your plan can make this back-to-school shopping experience quick, affordable and rewarding.