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Back to School Shopping Tips

Aug 25, 2022

With the first day of school right around the corner, here are some tips for back to school shopping for K-12 students, including how to save money on college textbooks. 


Before heading out to go shopping, or browsing online, determine your needs by taking inventory of what you already have.  Have your children try on clothing, and gather other schools supplies to see what you can continue to use for the upcoming school year. Create a list of what items you do need, and stick to that list.


Shop sales- Review store flyers and website before going shopping. Signing up for email lists from businesses will make it easier to find sales, and you can always unsubscribe from emails after shopping to avoid your inbox becoming cluttered.


Check if stores have rewards programs- A lot of stores carry free rewards programs that incentivize you to shop at their store. You may receive a discount at checkout when signing up, or earn points over time as you continue to purchase their products. Make sure to verify that these programs are free to join, and review the requirements.


Be cautious when considering a store credit card- At some point or another, you have probably been asked at checkout if you want to sign up for a store credit card. Typically, you are offered a discount on your first purchase, but make sure to consider the overall impact of signing up for a card. While store credit cards can be easy to qualify for, and allow you to earn rewards at a store that you enjoy, there are some cons to using them. These cards tend to have a high APRs, low credit limits that can lead to a higher credit utilization that will negatively impact your credit score, and you are restricted to using them at one store.


Don’t rule out thrift stores- It may be worthwhile to visit thrift stores and see if they have what you may need. You will typically pay a cheaper price buying gently used items. With growing children, they may only be able to wear certain clothing for a year, so new expensive clothes are not always practical. Some thrift stores offer more than just clothes. You may be able to find backpacks and other school supplies as well.


Spread out your purchases- Trying to purchase everything for the entire school year at once can be expensive, and overwhelming. Prioritize what your children will need for the first few months of school, and then revaluate a few months later. For example, waiting on purchasing cold weather clothes will give you more time to shop around, and review sales. 



Most college courses will require purchasing textbooks that are not included in your tuition costs. These books can be quite pricey, and if you are taking 5 courses per semester, the total costs can add up quickly, sometimes upwards of $500. Below are some tips that could potentially save you hundreds of dollars on college textbooks.


Try to avoid your campus bookstore- While your on-campus bookstore may be convenient, that convenience tends to come at a price. Check online to see if your textbooks are available elsewhere, and use your campus bookstore as a last resort.


Rent a textbook- There are multiple websites where you can rent your required textbook for the semester. Renting is a fraction of the cost of purchasing, but remember to return the copy at the end of the semester to avoid being charged further. This article lists a few different rental websites, and highlights some pros and cons of each service.


Purchase an E-textbook- Online textbooks are cheaper than a paper copies, due to no shipping, and the costs associated with producing the physical copy of the book. These often come with interactive elements that can help you further learn the relevant course material.  A drawback of this option is that you cannot sell back the book once you have finished the course.


Purchase a used textbook or an older edition- Used textbooks will always be cheaper than buying new. If you don’t mind some highlighting or wear and tear, this can be a great option for you. Depending on the condition and the demand for the book, you may be able to resell it after the semester is over. Since textbooks are often updated slightly every few years to include new information, you may be able to purchase an older edition to save some bucks. Before utilizing this option, make sure to verify with your professor that it will not impact your experience in their course.


Share a book with a classmate or use the textbook on file in the library- If you have a friend in the class, you can usually get away with sharing a textbook for the semester. Professors may have a textbook on file in the library that can be checked out for free. This can be risky however, as usually there are only one or two books available for multiple students in the class.