Changes in store for this year’s back to school shopping trips

Pandemic rules and changes make preparing in advance essential

The Province has announced that most B.C. students should plan to head to the classrooms come September. While back to school often means new routines for students and parents, COVID-19 presents additional challenges, and this extends to shopping for the new school year.

In addition to the usual supplies, parents will be looking at additional spending on items such as masks, which will be mandatory for middle and high school students in some situations, and sanitizer.

Many might also be looking at purchasing new technology, such as laptops, tablets, and computer accessories, to assist students who might be learning from home full- or part-time.

Last year in Canada, it was projected that parents would spend an average of $507 on back to school expenses, and that amount is expected to increase in 2020 with the challenges of COVID-19. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a few tips for parents before they hit the stores for school supplies.

“Before determining what students may need for the year, be prepared for a shift from one teaching format to another, and set a budget,” says Karla Laird, Manager for Community and Public Relations at BBB serving Mainland BC. “Planning ahead as much as possible will help keep expenses to a minimum and help children to continue learning with reduced interruptions as situations change.”

Know before you go: Retailers are taking extra precautions regarding the use of masks, physical distancing, and hand sanitizing, so be prepared. Many are also limiting the number of people allowed on the premises at one time, so start your shopping early to avoid lineups. If your shopping plans include some new clothing, contact the store(s) you will be visiting to find out what their dressing-room procedures are (and to ensure that the dressing-rooms are actually open). Follow the BC Centre for Disease Control guidelines on how best to disinfect and sanitize your items after you take them home.

Research big ticket items: Before purchasing expensive computer equipment or accessories, check with your child’s school to see what they might have available to borrow. If you decide to buy a laptop, tablet, or other big-ticket tech item, do your research into the different brands available, check out their warranties, and look for customer reviews.

Shop smart: Many retailers will be offering special sales and tax-free promotions during back to school season. Compare prices between different sellers, sign up for email alerts, and keep an eye open for cash-back or rebate offers.

Check for discounts: Many stores and software companies offer discounts to students with an .edu email address or who have a student ID, or to those who sign up to receive marketing materials. You can also check the seller’s website to see if they have any online coupons and discounts. If you are in a store and do not see a discount advertised, ask if there is one available; it can’t hurt.

Consider buying in bulk: Check with your child’s school or classroom teacher for a list of what’s needed for the school year, then see if you have any supplies left over from past years; waste not, want not. Speak with other parents and see if there is any interest in one person buying items in bulk for a discount, then splitting the costs between everyone.

Shop wisely and safely online: Be wary of clickbait ads that feature items you may want or need. These ads are based on your search history, and the purpose is to drive you to a different website to potentially steal money and personal information.

If you are interested in an item that pops up, take a note of it and go to the store’s website by typing its name into your search bar, not by clicking on the ad.

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