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Tips on how not to get taken when back-to-school shopping

Posted at 5:58 PM, Aug 02, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — As we’re counting down the days until school starts, you might be counting how much you have to spend on new school supplies.

FOX 13 News has been tracking how inflation has affected prices for the most basic school supplies items and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most everything has gone up at least 5 percent.

Beth Hunsaker, an accredited financial counselor at the University of Utah, has tips on the best ways to save with surging supply prices. Before you get to the store, look at that supplies list and check it twice. That means taking inventory of what you already have.

“Look it over and decide what it is you need versus what you want to make sure we don’t overspend in that way,” said Hunsaker. “Take a look at what you have from prior years or from older children. Maybe that backpack that they used last year can be cleaned up and used again. Kids don’t usually need a brand new one every single year.”

Once you’re at the store, don’t be taken so quickly by what the price tag tells you.

“Sometimes you’ll see an original price and a sales price and it makes you feel like you’re getting this incredible deal,” said Hunsaker. “Really focus on what the price you’re going to pay out-the-door is. Some stores may inflate an original price to make you think you’re getting a better deal, so just make sure you’re looking at what that out-the-door sales price is.”

Thankfully, there’s an app, or two, for that.

“You can look at different apps and actually scan the barcode to see if you’re getting a really good deal while you’re shopping live,” she said.

There’s plenty to choose from. Apps like Retail Me Not, Mycartsavings, Flipp and Price.com, just to name a few, can tell you where to find the best deals near you.

Some of them track prices in real-time as they fluctuate. Some let you add your store loyalty card to give you the most accurate look at what you’d be paying at the register.

If you’re juggling your student’s list and a teacher’s wish-list and your budget is too tight, consider filling one list and let your child’s teacher know you haven’t forgotten about them.

“As our bill goes up and as our budget stretches as we’re using it all up, maybe just put a note in your phone that maybe later in the year in October, if you happen to see that those items are on sale, that’s when you can buy them and support the classroom and can help spread out the cost of the supplies,” said Hunsaker.

As you consider how to pay, remember some credit cards reward you if you shop at certain retailers.

But Hunsaker cautions to be careful when racking up the charges.

“If you find out that your credit card will give you extra cash back if you shop at an office supply store rather than a big box retailer, that could be really good, but the fear with that is make sure you’re not overspending just to get that deal,” she said. “If you put it on the credit card, just know that you need to pay it off right away to avoid those added charges.”

CLICK HERE for a list of savings apps you can use as you shop.