123rf_Back-to-School_2015_7492635There are school-related bargains to be had even now. 123rf #7492635
If you can’t beat them, join them—at least that’s what loads of retailers are hoping you’ll do this back-to-school season, and the earlier the better. Advertising circulars are already flooding mailboxes beckoning with such catch-phrases as “It’s easy to get it all: buy one, get one 50% off” from Target and Office Depot’s “Gear up for school! Cool gear. Great savings.” And what budgeting mom or dad can resist Five Below’s “School Rules! Never pay more than $5 for the school stuff you need and want.”?

So school rules—even in July, and not just for supplies, but clothes, too. Indeed, everyone from Macy’s and JCPenny to Kohl’s and Boscov’s is in on it, offering “Crazy prices” and advising, “Be yourself!” And they all do so for a good reason. Seems 61% of surveyed parents say store sales and promotions are uppermost in their minds when they shop, so why not get them started weeks before school bells actually start ringing?

Seems they’re on to something. Fact is, a recent Consumer Pulse survey found that 25% of responding K-12 and college parents have already gotten started. Other findings include:

• 56% plan on spending more than they did last year, with 72% planning to mostly buy tech products vs. 61% going for clothes, and 50% for school supplies.
• The K-12 parents plan on spending $873 on each child.
• The college parents plan on spending $1,124 per child.
• 38% of the shopping lists will include a laptop, tablet, and/or mobile phone.

Meanwhile, those figures are backed up by an eMarketer report called “Back-to-School Ecommerce Preview 2015: Forecast & Trends for Retailers “Second Season.” The organization found that U.S. school-related sales will grow by 4.6% this summer, with online sales expected to rise by an impressive 14.4% to more than $56 billion. It’s like Christmas without the cold and snow!

A recent National Retail Federation report also says that, not only has this school shopping season started early, it did last year, too, when:

• For K-12 supplies, 22.5% of families began shopping 2 months before the start of school, with another 44.5% heading out 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time.
• For those with college students, those figures stand at 28.2% 2 and 33.4%, respectively.

Regardless of the all the enticing ads and pressure to get all of this done and out of the way, though, before you shop—either by way of brick-and-mortar establishments and/or online—be sure do a bit of homework first:

1. Peruse the must-have lists sent by teachers and figure out what supplies you already have on hand.
2. Go over the list with your child and establish priorities. Plan on saving when it comes to such items as paper towels and Kleenex, and figure out where you’re willing to stretch your budget, especially if electronics upgrades are needed. Of course, be on the lookout for sales, too.
3. Talk, too, about wanting what everyone else is getting and wearing and the reality of your finances. That old saw, “Just because everyone is jumping out a window…” comes to mind.
4. e honest about what you can and cannot afford, thus providing valuable lessons on spending, budgeting, wants vs. needs. Whereas a bunch of Old Navy tees won’t dent your budget all that much, just a couple of those sporting such names as Nike and Under Armour definitely will.
5. Focus on sturdy backpacks, 3-ring binders, and well-designed assignment books. Beware those all-in-one notebooks that sport expanding folders and the like. They’re catch-alls and wreak havoc on filing and staying organized.
6. Along with pens, pencils, notebook paper, etc., get tons of notebook dividers.Stick to the list and avoid loading up your shopping cart with attractive but unnecessary items—something retailers are certainly hoping you’ll do instead.
7. Don’t go it alone. Take your child with you—on a well-rested, well-fed day–and let them do most of the selecting—within reason.

And speaking of back-to-school, here’s a book to add to your shopping list if your child is facing her/his first-ever day of school—pre-school or kindergarten. It’s called Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School, by Richard Torrey, and is about a dinosaur-loving little girl who stomps about and roars like one even on that first day instead of trying to fit in and make friends… From there, it just keeps getting better.

And now, with all that said: On your mark, get set, go…