STATEWIDE (NEWS CENTER Maine) — With a new school year comes another back to school shopping list. For the second year in a row, Americans will spend around $83 billion according to the National Retail Federation. Its latest data also show households, with children in elementary through high school, plan to spend an average $684.79 each.
So what’s a family on a tight budget to do? According to Alaya Linton, financial coach and creator of the blog Hope + Cents, time could be your best weapon.
“Think about what you have to purchase right now and think about what can wait,” said Linton. After the back to school rush, retailers will be getting ready for the holiday season. So a lot of those back to school items will be moved to the clearance to make room.
After you have prioritized which items can be purchased later, use coupons for the items you need to buy now. That may seem obvious, but Linton says consumers often don’t take advantage of price matching before using the coupon.
“Bed Bath and Beyond is famous for its 20% off an item coupon so I price matched and then used their own coupon on top of that,” said Linton.
In that case, she found a cheaper price on Amazon for the same item at Bed Bath and Beyond. She called the store’s customer service and pointed to the item online. Bed Bath and Beyond matched the price to reflect the one she saw on Amazon, and used a coupon on top of that.
Linton also suggests spending a little bit more now, and investing in items that will last longer than one school year, to help your budget down the road. Spending a little more on items like backpacks, winter coats and lunch boxes can pay off later, if you can use them again and again and don’t have to buy a new one every fall.
“Personally I used to have to have to buy and replace, buy and replace,” she said. “And one year we decided to spend a little but more and we’ve been able to use that lunch box for three years now.”
When shopping online or in store, there are several apps that can help you find discounts and deals. Linton cites RetailMeNot, Coupon Sherpa and CouponCabin.
Some families, however, can hardly afford any supplies at all.
“In Sanford we have al ot of poverty,” said Wanda Parent who is runs the non-profit, Stuff the Bus Maine. “The statistic from the school department is that one in three student’s income qualifies as impoverished. That’s not only a huge number for the state but a huge number for the country. This once upon a time was a booming mill town and that’s not the case anymore.”
That’s where Stuff the Bus Maine comes in. Once a year in York County, kids who have previously registered with the non-profit are invited to come by and get backpacks and school supplies, at no cost. It’s also a resource for teachers, too.
It’s happening this Saturday August 25th 9 AM to 12 PM at Curtis Lake Church in Sanford.
Parent says even though the distribution happens once a year, for her, it’s a year-round effort. Donations are always accepted. Visit the Stuff the Bus Maine website to learn more.
For those who contribute to the cause, save your receipts. If your purchases go on sale Linton says most retailers will pay you the difference, typically within two weeks.
If you purchase an item that ends up going on sale, Linton says most retailers will honor the lower price, typically within 14 days of the purchase.
“Watch the price for those 14 days,” she said. “And take your receipt in and ask them to do a price adjustment.”
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