This time of year brings plenty of challenges for those who pack the youngsters off to a new school year, not the least of which is the challenge to family budgets. The National Retail Federation says the average household will spend $630 as they do their back-to-school shopping. But of course, even spending half that amount can be a burden for some.
Your Better Business Bureau has the following tips to save you money and headaches while outfitting your students:
• Make a list for each child. For supplies, you can check what you already have left over from previous years, thereby “shopping at home” and avoiding unnecessary purchases.
• Check prices online. You can save time by online comparisons for the stores you frequent. It beats driving from place to place. Look for coupons in newspapers and online for your stores of choice.
• Check those coupons carefully. Note the expiration dates, discount codes, and any cash-back or rebate programs.
• Early is best. Discounts can make stores run out sooner so try to beat the crowds.
• Learn from others. Many retailers will have an Internet community of informed shoppers with blogs or in their online forums. There you may find insider information about more coupons, special deals and rebates, sometimes revealed in email alerts. Signing up for such alerts is a good way to insure you do not miss out on hot, limited opportunities.
• Ask about discount deals for students. Many retailers offer such discounts on items like laptops and uniforms.
• Carefully read return policies. Returns can be easier if you keep all of the original packaging for supply items, including the cellophane, bubble wrap and boxes. Keep all receipts. Don’t put off the returning of an unwanted item, as there may be a time limit.
• As always, research companies with the BBB by looking them up at bbb.org.
Social media scams
Beware of back-to-school coupons and deals on Facebook, Twitter or emails that look too good to be true. Deep discounts on computers or $100 gift card rewards for completing a survey may be nothing more than a ploy to get personal information from you.
Protect your child’s ID
Thieves would love to have your child’s Social Security number or any other personal information. Use these tips to safeguard your child’s ID:
• When filling out forms for your child, ask who has access to them and whether they are kept in a secure location.
• Pay attention to forms from school. If they ask for personal information, find out how it will be used, why it’s being asked and who can see it.
• Consider whether you want to opt out of your child being listed in a student directory. If the directory lists names, addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, email addresses or photos, think about whether you want that information going out to the general public.
Whether you are shopping, filling out forms or engaging in any other of the many other back-to-school chores that come this time of year, be deliberate and smart about it. If you have questions or concerns, contact your BBB at (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbbinc.org.