7 Back-to-School Money Traps All Parents Should Avoid

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7 Back-to-School Money Traps All Parents Should Avoid

Mikey Rox for LongLiveYourMoney.com

There are an abundance of deals during back-to-school season – from clothing to electronics to snack foods – but not everything is at it seems. Take a look at these 7 back-to-school money traps all parents should avoid to put more money back in your pocket.

1. Overlooking leftover supplies

Plain and simple, your kid doesn’t need all new supplies every school year, despite that they think they do. If you do some digging around the house, you’ll probably find several items that you can rollover into this school year and perhaps even a few that were never even used. Crossing these items off the list before you get to the store can save you a small fortune.

2. Shopping at one store

We all have that go-to store in our area that we visit for every little thing, which, in all likelihood, is a Target or Wal-Mart. These big-box behemoths are great for scoring deals during back-to-school season, but just because they’re havens for savings doesn’t mean you’re getting the bottom-line price among similar retailers.

“It's important to compare prices and look for coupons as retailers are aggressively promoting new offers every day to undercut the competition,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “The Invisible Hand browser extension will help you find the cheapest prices online while the ShopSavvy app provides instant price comparison in store. Stay on top of new deals by reviewing circulars using the Flipp app and plan your shopping route based on who has the best offers.”

3. Opening a new store card for an extra discount

It’s tempting – opening a new credit card to score instant savings that are quite appealing when you’re already spending a decent chunk of change. But before you give in to temptation, think about the consequences and the effects that this innocuous piece of plastic may have down the road.

“Not only will the request ding your credit score, but carrying around a wallet full of plastic can lead to payment mismanagement and result in mounting interest and late fees,” warns Woroch. “Unless you shop with that retailer often, stick with a single credit card that offers points or cash back to maximize rewards. Access in-store coupons by downloading a free app like Coupon Sherpa, which offers discounts such as $10 off $40 worth of back-to-school purchases with a Kohl's coupon, or 15% off from Famous Footwear.”

4. Assuming bulk is a better value

One of the biggest mistakes people make when shopping, especially for food (and this goes for all year round, not just back-to-school) is having the mindset that bulk is better or cheaper. Sometimes this is the case, but often you may be paying more for that increased quantity than you would if you bought a smaller portion. The key to finding out which buy is better is to disregard the retail price and instead look at the price per unit/pound, which is generally located just to the left of the retail price on the store’s display stickers. If on a bulk purchase the price per unit/pound is higher than a smaller portion, it’s best to go with the lower quantity doubled up.

5. Buying everything brand new

Your kids will want two main things when going back-to-school – new clothing and the latest electronics. While they probably prefer spanking-new everything, sometimes your budget won’t (and probably shouldn’t) allow it. That’s totally OK. One, because you’re the one with all the money, and two, there are perfect good used versions in excellent condition available.

“Purchasing second-hand clothing and refurbished electronics can save shoppers anywhere from 30% to 90% in some cases,” Woroch says. “Thrift stores, consignment shops and online re-sellers including Poshmark and ThredUp are top resources for gently-used clothing. Apple, Newegg, BestBuy and TigerDirect offer refurbished or open-box laptops, tablets, computers and smartphones for up to 75% off, many of which come with a warranty. You can even find gently used sports equipment at stores like Swap Me Sports.”

6. Buying at the wrong time.

When a retailer promises the ‘best price of the season’ on any product, many of us foolishly believe them; that's why there's nothing more frustrating than seeing that backpack or calculator you just bought go on sale for even less.

“Since timing your purchases can be a task you don't have time to manage,” says Woroch, “use tools like CamelCamelCamel to identify Amazon product price histories so you know when to get the best deal. Learn the best time to buy back-to-school essentials, like fall clothing in October and laptops and tablets during Black Friday weekend. And set price drop notifications using Paribus, a tool that also requests a price adjustment on your behalf.

7. Giving in to pricey requests

Learning how to say no to your children when they want something that’s out of your budget is important in reaffirming who’s boss – but it can also keep you from going into debt. Woroch explains, “Designer jeans, Nike sneakers and the latest iPhone may be at the top of kids' wish lists for the new school year, but while these requests may seem outlandish to some, a survey found six in 10 parents actually splurge on designer labels and other expensive items for their kids,” she reveals. “The desire to give your kids the best is understandable, but it's more important to teach your son or daughter how to appreciate money. Sit down with your child to assess their needs and wants, create a budget and find ways to save on such goods. Splitting the cost of a new pair of name-brand jeans or sneakers will help your children understand the value of a dollar.”

And it won’t make you broke.

The information contained is intended to be for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and personal finance expert dedicated to helping you live your best life on a budget. His work has been published by more than 100 media outlets worldwide, including Wise Bread, Business Insider, Time magazine, The Huffington Post, CNN.com, and MSN Money, among many others. Mikey spends his time between his homes in Manhattan and the Jersey Shore with his dog Jaxon.

Find Mikey online at Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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