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Students at desks using pen and paper

Image credit: Flickr

If you haven’t had the chance to shop for back to school staples just yet, fear not, more markdowns lie ahead!  According to e-commerce data from 250,000 plus retailers, the week of September 9th is the best time to cash in on back to school deals.  That second week of September has 18% more sales than the worst week (the first of July).  Make the most of it by following these back to school savings guidelines.


Comparison Shop

The big bright signs advertising mega discounts don’t necessarily indicate the best prices.  Do some comparison shopping online before entering the retail environment, where tempting store displays and impossibly huge price reductions make everything seem like a good buy. is a good starting point for comparing major big box and online retailers.  If you’re already in-store, download the RedLaser app to scan product barcodes and automatically compare the in-store price to the price listed online or at other retailers near you.

Price Match

If your research turns up a cheaper price elsewhere, ask for a price match at the register or customer service desk to save yourself time and energy running around town to various retailers.  Many stores, especially the major big box retailers, will meet, even beat, the price of the competition.

For instance, this summer season Staples is guaranteeing a 110% price match on all back to school items.  That means that in addition to meeting the competitors’ price, they’ll give you an extra 10% off on the item.  Not only that, Staples guarantees the price match retroactively for up to two weeks after your purchase!

Buy Your Discount

In addition to taking advantage of any in-store deals, you can buy a discounted gift card online to the store of your choosing for even more savings.  Sites like can save you as much as 25% on gift cards others are looking to sell.


To make sure you’re in the know about promotions like these and other red hot deals, sign up for email updates at the major retailers nearest you.  Following on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter is another way to benefit from the most up to date deals and information available.

Assess What You Really Need

Before you take your back to school shopping list to the store, take inventory of what you already have at home.  What can you reuse and recycle from last year?  Backpacks?  Pencils? Markers? Notebooks?  A little search around the house can add up to significant savings and less time roaming the aisles of retail.

Consider the Alternative

 If your self-conducted inventory proves that you do in fact need some additional back to school items, explore your alternatives before defaulting to traditional vendors.  Everything from books to clothes can be bartered, swapped, or found for less at thrift stores or on sites like Craigslist or Freecycle.  For affordable versions of more specialized items like graphing calculators, check out the selection on eBay or buy used from a recent grad.

How do you save on back to school shopping?