(3 Minute Read) – It is an annual rite of passage: shopping for a box of crisp crayons and new notebooks. While some families start searching for cheap school supplies in July, those who have waited for this year’s supply list are facing product shortages, higher costs, and mounting frustration as they search for those pink Pearl erasers and Ticonderoga pencils.
The National Retail Federation reports families will spend an average of $864 on school supplies this year. That is up $168 over 2019. While you can blame inflation for much of the increase in price, persistent supply chain issues continue to be problematic for retailers and shoppers.
The Federal Reserve has been trying to slow spending by raising interest rates. The goal is to cool demand so prices will come down and we can avoid a recession. However, back-to-school shopping is a seasonal demand—a time when seemingly everyone is searching for the same products—and there’s little retailers can do to offset high demand when there is low supply. Simply put: shoppers need those crayons, and backpacks, and markers now, not in three months. If you can find what you’re looking for, be prepared for it to cost more.
Tips & Tricks to Save on School Supplies
With the inflation rate at 8.5%, your purchasing power isn’t what it was at this time last year. Your dollar just is not going as far. You’ll need to plan to spend more on school supplies but might consider a few tips and tricks to make the blow at the check-out line a little less painful.
- Leave your kids at home. Grab the school supply list and head to the store without your children. You’re less likely to give in to impulse purchases or requests for expensive versions of the items on your list, if you don’t have the pressure of your little bestie begging for brand names.
- Get thrifty. Let’s face it, kids outgrow clothes and shoes quickly. Consider a trip to your local thrift shop or consignment store to find some gently used items. Soccer cleats worn for three months haven’t reached the end of their useful life, and you can score them for a fraction of the cost of a new pair if you buy second-hand.
- Clip coupons. Well, you may clip them digitally these days, but coupons and promo codes can save you a lot of money. For example, signing up for a store’s text message promotions while in the checkout line can score you a $20 off $100 purchase on the spot. Then you can opt-out of the messages or mute the notifications.
- Make your purchases last. If you spend $100 on a new pair of sneakers, make sure your kids only use those for school and switch into an older pair when they get home to play. Same goes for those expensive brand name jeans or hoodies. Help your kids understand the difference between school clothes and play clothes.
- Get price drop notifications. If your kiddo has their heart set on a certain item and you’re waiting for the price to drop, consider price-tracking browser extensions like CamelCamelCamel or Keepa. They track price changes and alert you when the price drops.
- Consider discounted gift cards. There are dozens of gift card resellers online that offer discounted gift cards that they’ve purchased from others and verified. Try out some of these sites to save between 5% to 30%. Or redeem points from your Unitus Visa Platinum card to get free gift cards to help offset the rising cost of school supplies.
- Hold off on supplies you don’t need right away. Maybe that expensive calculator isn’t needed until later in the semester? Perhaps the old laptop will hang on for a few more months? Wait until these items go on sale later in the year (after Labor Day or on Black Friday) and then make the purchase.
While planning for rising costs is never easy, there are dozens of tools within Unitus’ digital banking that can help you budget, set savings goals, or alert you when your direct deposit goes through. Here’s hoping you find the perfect pocket folders for the upcoming school year!