How to save money on back-to-school shopping

Back-to-school shopping can be pricey, but with a little homework and some smarts, you can save now and in the long run. Here’s our cheat sheet to help you out.

Photo: Roberto Caruso

New clothes, a backpack, school supplies, lunch gear… Heading back to school can be pricey—and Canadians are expected to spend 4.5 percent more than they did last year, according to Ernst & Young. But there are ways to keep your budget in check and get the most bang for your buck.

Warranties
Between running around at recess, scooting across the classroom floor during playtime and even chewing on their shirt cuffs, kids can be rough on their clothes. Thankfully, a few retailers have your back.

• Walmart guarantees that their kids’ clothing and shoes won’t wear out before your kiddo outgrows them. The guarantee covers children’s clothing in sizes zero to 16, and shoes from toddler size zero to boys’ youth size six and to girls’ youth size four.

• Sears’ Lifetime Wear Out Warranty on kids’ clothing and shoes is one of the best: They’ll repair or replace the item in the same size as long as any kid in your family is wearing that size—a real bonus for larger families. If the item is no longer in stock, Sears will replace it with a similar item of equal value. The warranty covers kids’ clothing up to size 18 and shoes up to senior kids’ (youth) size six.

• Giant Tiger’s satisfaction-guaranteed return policy has no time limit, so if you’re dissatisfied with the wear on kids’ clothing or school gear, you can return the item and get your money back.

Price matching
Cut down on multiple stops and save time standing in a series of long checkout lines during back-to-school shopping by being a price-matching ninja. Many retailers will match—and some will even beat—competitors’ prices. Typically, there are a few restrictions: The products have to be identical (often down to the model number, which can get tricky, as some stores carry unique models); the competitor has to be a Canadian retailer and prices must be in Canadian dollars; and you’ll have to show a flyer or printout from an online retailer when you buy (many stores require printed proof, so pulling up a price on your smartphone often won’t fly). Something to keep in mind: If you find a better price from an online competitor, some retailers, such as Best Buy and Staples, will add shipping costs to their competitor’s price, which can cancel out or even surpass the savings you were banking on. Retailers that offer price matching include Walmart, Sears, Hudson’s Bay, Sport Chek and The Source. A few stores go beyond standard price matching:

• Staples will match a competitor’s price and any bonus offer, like a free gift card.

• Best Buy will beat a competitor’s price by 10 percent of the difference (for example, if the competitor’s price is $20 less, you’ll get $2 off the lower price).

• Giant Tiger will sell you an item for one cent less than a competitor’s advertised price.

Price adjusting
Frustrated by clothes or school supplies going on sale a day or a week after you’ve spent a bundle? Lots of retailers will do a price adjustment, usually within seven days of purchase but sometimes up to 30 days later. Stores that offer price adjustments include The Children’s Place, Carter’s/OshKosh, Walmart, Hudson’s Bay, Sears, Best Buy, Staples and Sport Chek.

Rain checks
Many retailers offer rain checks if items sell out, but when it comes to deeply discounted back-to-school supplies, all bets are off. Check flyers and advertisements carefully for “no rain checks” notices to avoid frustration at the checkout. And if you’re not sure, call the store in advance to ask about stock and their rain check policy on specific items.

Special promos
No-tax days, coupons and coupon codes, rebates and free-shipping offers can save you a chunk of change, especially when you can double (or triple) dip. Don’t forget to use savings apps (like Checkout 51, Red Flag Deals, Snap and Flipp) for back-to-school-related offers.

Get free kids’ eyeglasses
If your kid wears glasses, you know getting an eye exam and a new pair of specs before school starts can really put a dent in your budget. But you can save big at, of all places, the grocery store. Loblaw Optical’s Kids See Free program, which runs year-round, offers kids ages four to 10 a free pair of eyeglasses, including a frame and single-vision polycarbonate (kid-safe) lenses with a scratch-resistant coating, up to a value of $49. Upgrades are available at an additional cost, but you’re still going to save $49 on the total price. If you took advantage of the program last August or September, you can get a new pair of free glasses for your kid after a full year has passed. Kids See Free is available at all Loblaw stores that have an optical department.

Save your receipts!
You’ll need proof of purchase to take advantage of price adjustments and warranties. Designate a spot now for all back-to-school receipts.

Read more:
5 tips to save money on back-to-school shopping
13 ways to save money every day

No Comments