Parents and students expect to spend more than ever on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. If you — or a student in your life — is shopping for books, clothes, school supplies, backpacks or other items, be sure to keep these tips in mind. Better Business Bureau offers the following advice on how to shop smart for back-to-school or back-to-college purchases:
Before leaving the house: Start your back-to-school shopping by creating a list. Jot down everything you need and stick to the list. Impulse buying can increase your overall total in a hurry. Then shop your home before heading to the store. You may already have some of the items from last year. Why purchase the same thing twice?
Research big ticket items: Before purchasing that expensive laptop, tablet or dorm refrigerator, be sure to do your research. Research the brands, warranty, customer reviews and the prices at various stores to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Also, look up the retailer on BBB.org.
Shop smart with sales and tax-free weekends: Compare prices between different retail stores, save your coupons, sign up for email alerts and redeem any cash-back or rebate offers. This will help you get the best deals, saving you a nice chunk of dough. Also, your state may have a tax-free weekend, enabling you to buy clothes, school supplies and other items without paying sales tax.
Ask for student discounts: Many stores and software companies offer discounts to students that have either an .edu email address or a student ID. Even if you don’t see a discount advertised at the store, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Shop in bulk: Some teachers ask parents to buy bulk items for the entire classroom to use throughout the year. Talk with other parents about what they’re getting and see if you can all split the cost.
Know the return policies and save your receipts: Kids can be fickle. They can love a new shirt yesterday but hate it today. Ask about return policies before making your purchase. Be sure to save your receipts just in case you have to return the item later.
Shop safely online: When shopping from an online website, the first step is to make sure the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The “s” in “https” stands for secure, that way you know your information is being protected.
Do your research: An unknown website may offer a similar product at a lower price. The lowest price isn’t always the best route. Check for user reviews and badges for consumer protection agencies.
— Be sure to use your credit card instead of your debit card, as credit cards not only provide additional protection, but it’s also easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.
— Be extremely wary of any website or store that asks for your child’s personal information in order to access special deals.
— If you’re buying supplies through a website like Craigslist, make sure you don’t wire money to someone you’ve not met. Use PayPal if possible, but if you are using cash, make sure you meet in a public place and bring a friend.
— If you use Facebook you know banner ads are all over the place and many ads are even catered to what you like. Some of them, however, are just click bait ads to drive you to a different website where you could potentially be asked to input personal information. Take note of the ad and go to the store’s website directly.
Protect your child from identity theft: Another thing to think about while getting your kids ready for back-to-school is identity theft. Believe it or not, children are especially good targets because they have zero credit history and no questionable banking transactions in their history. A child can have their ID stolen through their social security number or social insurance number, and you may not find out about it for years. Here are some tips for protecting your child’s identity as they head back to school:
— Don’t allow them to carry around their social insurance number or social security number. Leave it at home and locked in a safe place.
— If a business or school asks for their SIN or SSN, ask questions. Why do they need it and where and how is this information being stored? How long is it being stored and how will it be terminated? Who has access to it?
— Educate your child on being safe if they are active in the online world. Keep detailed personal information off social media profiles.