Back-to-School Shopping Tips

Plan ahead, spend wisely, stay secure.

Like many retail events, the back-to-school shopping season seems to start earlier and earlier. Here are ways to focus on buying only what you need, finding good values and keeping your financial information safe when shopping online or in stores.                                  

Recycle Clothes and Supplies

Your kids don’t necessarily need a whole new wardrobe and treasure chest of supplies just because the school year is starting up again. Take a minute to get organized and go through backpacks and closets. Chances are, you’ll find plenty of inventory worth using again. However, like many Americans you may have an “out with the old and in with the new” shopping mindset, which can put a real dent in your finances if you’re not careful. In fact, according to the National Retail Association, nearly seven in 10 shoppers plan on purchasing new backpacks this year, rather than reusing what they have. So when you shop for things that get more wear and tear like backpacks or jackets, consider focusing on quality not novelty.

Stick to Your Budget—And List

If you make a list and budget for it, you’ll be able to shop strategically, not haphazardly. Get your kids on board with planning and saving too, so they learn about what things realistically cost. If they want to buy something that goes over your budget, like a trendy pair of sneakers, they can use their own funds or forego the new pair of jeans to make up the difference.

Avoid the Hype

Don’t let back-to-school sales compel you to buy things you don’t really need at premium prices. It’s true some school items may be required from the first day, but there are other things you can certainly wait on. Once school starts, September will be a much better time to snag deals on clothing, electronics and school supplies as retailers begin to reduce prices to make room for other seasonal events.

Use Coupons and Mobile Apps

If you’re an online shopper, you know that mobile apps can save you a lot of time and money. Most retailers offer free apps featuring special offers, coupons and in-store savings. And if you’re looking for the best deals on items that are not store-specific, apps like ShopSavvy and PriceGrabber have barcode scanners to check prices and compare deals. There are plenty of coupon aggregators such as that can do the legwork for you. Be careful to download apps from legitimate app stores only, avoid online shopping on public Wi-Fi networks, be thoughtful about granting app permissions and never use the same password across multiple accounts or apps. And if you’re tempted to use a retailer’s credit card to get extra discounts, make sure you have enough funds to pay the balance in full once the bill comes. Why? Because more than half of retail credit cards have annual percentage rates of at least 25%, according to a survey by That’s a hefty rate to carry a balance on considering that the national average credit card rate is 15.18%.

Stay Secure Wherever You Are

Shopping online is very convenient, but it’s best to shop from home to keep your financial accounts secure. Always secure your Wi-Fi network at home and never use public Wi-Fi, because you risk hackers stealing your personal information. If you do shop away from home, use a virtual private network (VPN). When shopping at local stores or malls, don’t carry large amounts of cash and keep it secure; when possible use debit or credit cards.



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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.

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