How To Save On Back to School Shopping

Young smiling student being carried by parent

Back to school season is officially in full swing. If you haven’t finished shopping for your school-bound child, you’ll most likely be hitting the mall soon to get it all done. This is an expensive time of year for parents trying to get their children prepared for back to class. According to a survey by the shopping site Ebates, parents of post-secondary aged children expect to spend up to $198 per child and parents of pre-schoolers expect to spend $147.

If you have several children headed back to school in September, you could be looking at a several hundred-dollar bills to get them ready. This is the second busiest shopping season of the year. Only at Christmas and the holidays do we spend more. Many of us have already accumulated debt from all the summer fun we have been having. Don’t make it worse by racking up more charges on your credit card.

Shop at home first

Always start your back to school shopping in your child’s own closet. During the hot summer months, it’s easy to forget about what fall and winter items your children own. Spend one afternoon going through all your child’s colder weather clothes. Save what still fits and looks good. This will make sure you are not purchasing an item you already have.

Start with second hand clothing

Once you know what your child needs start by shopping second hand first. This can mean shopping at thrift stores or checking online classified sites, and local Facebook buy and sell sites. In my own experience, I have had the most luck on local parents buy and sell sites. These items are in almost new condition and often 90 percent cheaper than buying brand new. The best part, they are usually being sold by a parent in your own neighbourhood.

Keep your receipts

The sales on winter clothing right now are pretty enticing, although I usually wait to buy winter clothes later in the year, I did splurge on winter boots because the price was so good. If you do buy winter gear now, buy a size slightly bigger and save your receipt. Before you store away your item, check the receipt for how long you have for a return or exchange. Put a note in your calendar to check if the clothes still fit a few days before the return period is up. If your child has grown too much you can always return the item for money or a bigger size.

Sell what you don’t use

Once you have finished sorting through the clothing and items you don’t need for your child, sell them. Take a photo and put them up on a local buy and sell site. Parents just like you are scouring the internet right now for deals too. Sell your stuff and make some money. You can use that money to put towards you own back to school shopping. Photo tip: When taking pictures to sell your stuff, choose a clear non cluttered location with a neutral back ground. I really like using my dining table or a hardwood floor as a background.

Advice for older children

If your child is headed off to university, they may be shopping for themselves and they will definitely be managing their own money when they are away. The average university student in Canada graduates with more than $27,000 in debt after completing a four-year degree.

Help them by first calculating what the entire school year is going to cost when it comes to tuition, housing, transportation, books, clothing, and entertainment. Next, find free money. There are a number of online sites you can apply for scholarships and grants.

There are also scholarships available on the government of Canada website. Also, students should check what grants and scholarships their own university is offering.

Advice for parents

A 2015 BMO Study found 82 percent of parent’s surveyed report providing financial support for their adult children at least once, with 15 percent of parents providing regular ongoing financial support. If you’re helping your university bound child out financially, make sure you run your own numbers first before handing over your cash. You should not be supporting them at the risk of slowing down your own retirement savings and debt repayment.

Back to school season is expensive but by doing some careful planning, parents and students can go back to class well prepared without going deep into debt.

If you have decided to charge your back to school purchases on your rewards credit card, make sure it is benefiting you. You may be able to get cash-back for those purchases. Compare credit cards at

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