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[Teacher Tips] How to Find the Best Back-to-School Deals

Monday, August 14, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

We all wish this was a world in which parents and districts could easily provide every student with all the supplies necessary to be successful in an upcoming school year. Unfortunately, the reality is that equipping students with all the right classroom supplies is a challenge, and teachers often have to pick up the slack out of their own funds for things as simple as pencils and paper. Knowing where to find the best deals is key to setting you and your students up for success. Here’s a few of our favorite tips to maximize back-to-school budgets:

Don’t necessarily wait for tax-free weekend

Around 20 states offer tax-free holiday weekends in which clothes, school supplies, and personal devices are not subject to sales tax. Naturally, these are the busiest shopping weekends of the summer. It’s common sense that this would be when you need to shop, right?

Not necessarily. If you’re making big purchases, like laptops or tablets, the money saved may be worth the hassle of fighting with the masses. But for the small stuff, do a little math and put a value on your time. Is fighting with people at Target for a couple of hours worth the $7 you save? Also, stores know these weekends are going to be a bonanza for them, so you may find better deals earlier in the summer when they are more desperate to boost their bottom lines.

Amazon may not be the answer

An article written last year mentions that compared to traditional stores, Amazon actually cost more on many common school supplies. Now, when you factor in Prime shipping (if you’re a member) and the time saved from not having to go to an actual store, it may be more even. But traditional stores are in trouble so they are more likely to offer more deals to get people in the doors and spend more. Again, some homework helps here. While you’re looking online, check out a place not many people think of for new items: eBay. They have some great sales going on as well.

Pool your resources

It’s common sense that buying in bulk saves a lot of money. But when it comes to school supplies, “bulk” can be a staggering amount designed for schools themselves, not individual consumers.

However, many teachers forget that they have a group of colleagues who all need supplies and may have access to places other don’t, like discount clubs. Connect with your fellow teachers, organize a shopping list for everyone (even if it’s just the basics) and look for a bulk retailer. An online search should yield results, but asking your district’s procurement specialist may also help.

Become a temporary couponer

You may be familiar with people who treat using coupons to their maximum ability as a hobby; you may even be such a dedicated penny-pincher yourself. Whether or not you’re a regular couponer, school supply shopping season is a time when those skills come in handy. Call on a friend who is a die-hard deal hunter, or check out one of the many sites dedicated to sharing money-saving secrets and providing ongoing updates on the best deals. The key when working like this is flexibility because you don’t know where the best deal will be at any particular time. Who knows? You may have found a new hobby.

Looking for more ideas to save money and get organized before the start of the new school year? Check out our Teachers’ Ultimate Guide to Back-to-School Planning!