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6 Things Grownups Should Buy at Back-to-School Sales

There’s a lot to save on beyond notebooks and pencils

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You don’t need a student ID to enjoy great savings this time of year. Back-to-school bargains can be had by shoppers of any age. ​

“The great thing about back-to-school shopping is that it encompasses several different categories, many of which are useful to older adults,” says Julie Ramhold, senior blog writer and consumer analyst at DealNews. “If there’s something that even remotely could fall into a back-to-school category, it’s worth seeing if it’s on sale.”

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The biggest savings this time of year are on supplies and gear for teens, tweens and adolescents. But retailers often slash prices on adult sizes and items too. And who doesn’t need to stock up on office supplies from time to time? 

With that in mind, here are six categories of products that are on sale this back-to-school season. 

1. Shoes and apparel 

The biggest savings in these two categories are reserved for warm-weather gear and older styles. As summer winds down, retailers slash prices to move inventory and make room for fall clothing and shoes. ​

Take Nike, Reebok and Adidas as examples. All three are running back-to-school sales for shoes and apparel, giving you double-digit percentages off. Sure, they may not be the kicks trending on TikTok for the fall, but you can get a pair of running sneakers or leggings on the cheap. 

If you’re in the market for fall clothing such as sweaters and jeans, sit tight: These things will go on sale in a few weeks. “The discounts will be modest at best, and more likely we won’t see any discounts on things like sweaters and denim just yet. Most of these items have just hit store shelves, so it’s too early to see any savings on these kinds of items,” says Ramhold. 

Shopping tip: Keep an open mind when shopping the back-to-school sale racks. An item may be in the juniors section but still fit your taste and size.

2. Office supplies 

If you need pens, paper, envelopes, tape and other office supplies, now is a great time to stock up. “This is the time of year when the variety of office supplies is greater. Retailers make sure their assortments have all the possible products — in all the variations,” says Deborah Fowler, professor of hospitality and retail management at Texas Tech University. Older adults “can pick up all the office supplies or children’s supplies they keep on hand for young visitors for the year.” Staples, Target, Walmart and Office Depot are just a few examples of retailers with office supply sales during back-to-school season. ​

Shopping tip: It’s best to act soon in this category. Items tend to sell out, and sales begin to wind down after Labor Day.

3. Backpacks, bags and food containers

If you need a new backpack, lunch bag or food container, you’re in luck. All of the above are on sale during back-to-school season. Many retailers such as REI, L.L. Bean, Bentgo and Pottery Barn are running specials. 

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Shopping tip: Be open to shopping online, says Ramhold. There’s more variety and the chance to save more with discount coupons and cash-back browser extensions such as Rakuten and Honey. “You can place an order online and have it delivered, rather than having to drive to a different store to try to find the item you need,” says Ramhold. 

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4. Bedding and room decor

Sheets, comforters, pillowcases and room decor typically go on sale as college-bound students purchase everything to outfit their dorm rooms. The deals can be found online at places like Wayfair and Bed Bath & Beyond and in-store at Target, Walmart and Kohl’s. “Back to college is also a big push,” among retailers, says budgeting expert Andrea Woroch. “You can find deals on various dorm room supplies that are great for your own home like bedding, storage and organization products, lamps and bathroom supplies,” including bath mats, shower curtains and towels.

Shopping tip: Compare prices before you buy. Retailers change them often. You don’t want to miss out on a better deal elsewhere. Woroch says to compare store circulars and prices online.​

5. Computers and electronic gadgets

Sales on computers, laptops, tablets and other electronic gadgets needed for school abound in August. The deals vary from percentages off to free gift cards and other extras. Among the companies and retailers running deals on laptops and gadgets are Apple, Dell, Lenovo, HP, Best Buy, Walmart and Belkin. 

Shopping tip: This may or may not work, but some retailers give adults 55+ a senior discount that could amount to an additional 10 percent or more off. They aren’t necessarily going to offer it up front, so make sure to ask when checking out. 

6. Water bottles 

Hydration is important for everyone, whether you’re in a classroom or a cubicle, which is why now is a great time to save on personal water bottles. Many retailers, from Target to REI, have sales running on all types and sizes of water bottles. 

Shopping tip: To amp up your savings, look out for coupons and other deals. And if the retailer offers a free rewards program, use it. If your state is running tax-free days in August, wait until then to shop, says Woroch. “Some states offer tax-free days on select purchases in August to help consumers cut costs on going back to school. But anyone can take advantage of these savings even if you aren’t going back to school,” she says. You can check your state here

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