A recent survey by the shopping website PriceGrabber.com found that back-to-school shopping is truly big business, with 63 percent of consumers planning to spend up to $500 on back-to-school shopping this year. The same survey showed that a lot of the shopping this year will be happening online, with nearly 80 percent of people saying they plan to do some "virtual shopping" for back-to-school items. Don't forget, if you shop online or by phone, before placing an order be sure to check free websites like PromotionalCodes.com and RetailMeNot.com for promotional codes, coupons and other discount offers from various retailers and manufacturers.
Here are some of the back-to-school bargains:
School or office supplies
Most office supply stores and general merchandise retailers are offering attractive discounts on everyday supplies like paper, pencils, backpacks and notebooks, often using them as "loss leaders" just to get you in the store. Staples came out early and strong this summer in courting back-to-school shoppers, virtually giving away items like pencils, note pads and notebook dividers through a series of weekly "1 cent sales" (quantities are limited and some restrictions apply). For $10 you can also buy a Staples Back to School Savings Pass that gets you 15 percent off a wide range of supplies through Sept. 21, 2013 — definitely worth considering if you shopping for large family or want to outfit your home office or business with the essentials. Other retailers like Toys R Us offer free shipping on school items, with some restrictions, if you order online.
Adult clothing as well as children's is on sale this time of year. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a clothing retailer that is not offering some type of back-to-school sale. Footwear can be a particularly good bargain, with, for example, Famous Footwear offering a special where you get 50 percent off a second pair of footwear when you buy one pair. One word of caution, though, from seasonal shopping guru Mark Di Vincenzo, author of Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: If you're in the market for a new pair of jeans, you may actually find a better deal if you wait until October to buy. That's when retailers mark down their remaining inventories of jeans that they stocked up on for the back-to-school rush.
Computers and electronics
In my day, the big thrill was getting a new slide rule, but now it's all about getting the latest tech gadgets and computer gear. Major chains like Best Buy are offering up some of their most competitive prices of the year on selected electronics and computer hardware.
Sport and fitness gear
This was the one bright spot of back-to-school shopping when I was a kid — a chance to score some new sports equipment under the argument that I'd need it for school. Many sales offered by sporting goods chains this time of year are likely more about the need to sell off remaining summertime gear to make room for fall and winter items than about equipping school kids for gym class and after-school sports, but who cares? Retailers including Sports Authority, Cabela's and even Bass Pro Shops are using it as an excuse to mark down some pretty sporty merchandise.
Art and craft supplies
If you're into crafting, keep an eye open for chains like Michaels and A.C. Moore to offer sales on art and craft supplies during the back-to-school season. Like with sporting goods, many times craft stores use extended back-to-school sales to liquidate summer seasonal items. For example, my wife has found some of the best prices of the year on silk flowers and scrapbooking supplies during this time of year, allowing her to indulge two of her favorite crafty pastimes on the cheap.
To sweeten August back-to-school savings even more, many states waive sales tax on clothing, computers and other school supplies. Check online to see whether your state is participating.
Jeff Yeager is the author of four books including, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and Don't Throw That Away! His website is UltimateCheapskate.com and you can friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.
Also of interest: Check out AARP's 99 ways to save!
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