Two young swimmers at Cottonwood Park take advantage of Stuart Lake on a warm day as summer begins to wind down.

Back to school tips

It's the time of year for back to school spending; here are a few tips to help parents save time and money.

It’s the time of year to start thinking about back to school. For students it means a new classroom, new challenges, old friends, and some new ones; but for parents it means back-to-school shopping. This is the second biggest spending season of the year, and it’s estimated that across North America some $70 billion will be spent on new clothing and supplies as students from Kindergarten to university head to the classroom.

For many families it’s a difficult time, especially those who have several children. Here are a few tips to help parents navigate the back-to-school spending season.

– Compare prices before you hit the stores. Looking at flyers and online guides in advance can help you find the best deals, and save a lot of time and footwork. Look out for coupons (check the expiration date), sales days, and cash-back rebate offers.

– Most schools give out grade-specific lists of what materials students need. If your child didn’t get one, or you’ve misplaced it, check the school’s website to see if it’s posted online, or get a copy from another parent. The list will keep you from buying duplicate or unneeded items.

– If you have more than one child who needs the same things (pencils, erasers, pens, etc.) take advantage of multi or jumbo packs to keep the costs down. It can also be worth going through your child’s leftover supplies from last year, to see what they didn’t use. There’s no point buying a new ruler if Jennie still has a perfectly good one from last year.

– Check to see if your child’s teacher buys school supplies in bulk and then charges parents a set fee. This is a great way to keep supply costs down.

– Make sure you know the store’s return policy before you buy, and keep all receipts. Also be aware that even if a store has a return policy, you might not get a 100% refund, so read the fine print. Many stores stipulate that returns must be made within a certain time period—often 30 days from purchase—so if something has to be returned, don’t wait too long.

– If you decide to buy online, look out for special deals on shipping, such as free shipping above a certain amount spent. Shipping costs for online purchases can often be high, so consider going in with another parent in order to meet any “free shipping” threshold.

Barbara Roden

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