July 26th, 2011

How to Avoid Spending $600 on Back-to-School Shopping

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**It’s Back to School Week here on the Credit Karma blog! Each day we’ll bring you a post all about getting ready to go back to school and helping your kids learn in the process.**

It seems like just yesterday we were kicking off our summers and getting ready for a nice, long beach vacation. But now the time is nearly here to say “goodbye” to summer camp, family vacations, and warm summer nights.

Suddenly we’re putting away our suitcases and pulling out our backpacks because it’s back-to-school time! It all starts with the all-important back-to-school shopping list. This year, the National Retail Federation estimates that total spending on grades K-12 will reach $22.8 billion—or an average of $603.63 per student.

Credit Karma’s here to challenge you to spend a little less and make it the most frugal year yet. We’ve racked our brains—and those of our Facebook community—to come up with the best back-to-school shopping tips. Enjoy!


If you like to plan ahead…

Take an inventory of what you already have before you step out the door to go shopping,” says Live Simply, Live Thrifty, Live Savvy. “You may have more than you would expect. Also buy school supplies throughout the entire year that you see on clearance or on sale.”

Wait till school supplies go on clearance, usually a week before school,” says Chrissy H. “I buy for the rest of the year as well when school supplies are on sale.”


If you have a long shopping list…

Shop during a sales tax holiday. “If you live in a state with a tax-free holiday, wait to shop until then!” says Roxanne S. “On top of saving taxes, most retailers will have specials and sales.”

“Wait for the ads,” Henry H. says. “Check for the sales,” Tiffany S. adds. “There have been some really good ones lately, such as packs of notebook paper for 25 cents. That’s a steal!”


If you prefer to shop with friends…

Organize a hand-me-down clothing swap. Gather your like-minded parenting friends and put together a fun event. Make an afternoon of it, with snacks and activities for the kids.

Head to a warehouse store with friends. You may not need one hundred spiral notebooks from Costco, but if you go with a friend and split the cost, you can double your buying power without overstocking your closet.


If you’re into recycling and repurposing…

Re-use last year’s backpack,” says Meg P.

Check out garage sales and second-hand shops. You might be able to find gently used clothing, backpacks, lunchboxes and more for the kids. It’ll still be new to them and it’s good for the environment!

For expensive electronics, like laptops and eReaders, consider buying refurbished. Shop for refurbished laptops on Amazon.com. Look through the availability at the Dell Outlet, which offers refurbished, previously ordered, and cosmetically blemished electronics. Just make sure you shop a trusted retailer and read through all the fine print before buying.

Do you have a tried-and-true back-to-school shopping tip?

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.


  1. Wow those stats are unbelievable! I knew kids that would get a new LL Bean backpack every year, and they were like eighty dollars! I had the same teal colored one for like six years. Going to a warehouse store is a great idea, especially if you have friends with kids the same age as you. And maybe you can mooch off one of your friends that already has a membership so you don’t have to pay the 5 or 10 perent visitors fee.

    CreditShout at 11:19 am on July 28, 2011

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