There are lots of ways to save on school supplies.

Keep back to school costs down

A few handy tips to help you save money during the second biggest shopping season of the year.

Back to school is almost here, and that means shopping for school supplies. This is the second biggest spending season of the year (Christmas is first), and it’s estimated that across North America more than $70 billion will be spent on new clothing and supplies as students head to the classroom.

For many families it’s an expensive time. Here are a few tips to help parents navigate the back to school spending season without breaking the bank.

Compare prices before you hit the stores. Looking at flyers and online sites in advance can help you find the best deals, and save time and legwork. Look out for coupons, 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 misplaced it, check the school’s website to see if it’s posted online, or get a copy from another parent. The list will help prevent the purchase of unneeded items.

Take advantage of bulk buying. If you have more than one child who needs the same things, take advantage of multi or jumbo packs to keep unit costs down. It can also be worthwhile to go through your child’s leftover supplies from last year. There’s no point buying a new ruler if your daughter still has a perfectly good one.

Check to see if your child’s school, or classroom teacher, buys supplies in bulk and charges parents a set fee. This is a great way to keep costs down and ensure your child gets exactly what he needs.

Make sure you know the store’s return policy before you buy, and keep all packaging and receipts. This is especially important with clothing. Also be aware that even if a store does have a return policy (not all do), you might not get a 100 per cent refund and/or there might be a time limit for returns, so ask the store for clarification before you leave.

If you decide to buy online, be aware that shipping costs can be high, so look for stores that offer free shipping above a certain amount spent. If your purchase doesn’t reach the required threshold, consider going in with another parent. Also make sure that the point of purchase web page’s URL contains “https://” and the lock sign, which means it is a secure site.

If you make purchases from an online site such as Craigslist, don’t wire money to anyone you don’t know. Try to use a third party site such as PayPal if possible. If you decide to use cash, arrange to meet the seller in a public place and bring a friend with you.

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