Back to School Shopping: A Guide to Success

By Kaitlin Hurtado on August 6, 2021

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Back-to-school shopping as a college student can feel a lot different than it did as a child. It’s a reminder that you are back to having week after week of classes and assignments after a much-needed summer break, and it also may be a reminder that you have to reevaluate your budget as you need to get yourself fully prepared for the upcoming academic year. It’s no longer about buying an assortment of colorful and bright school supplies without a care of the cost or if you actually needed it, but about what you actually need to get through the school year without breaking your budget, overpriced textbooks included.

Not sure where to start with your back-to-school shopping? Keep reading for tips on making your next round of shopping a complete success.

back to school shopping

Photo: Pexels

Take inventory and make a list 

Before you start swiping your credit card away at everything you think you may need, make sure you are only buying what you actually will need. First, take inventory of the supplies you already have, especially if these supplies have not seen the light of day since your last semester ended. Do you have spare notebooks you can use for the upcoming semester? A forgotten backup stock of printer paper and ink? Make sure to take stock of the supplies you already have to avoid spending more money than you need to. As exciting as a brand new pack of colorful pens or highlighters sounds, there’s really no point in shelling out more money for them if you already have a full stock of them that are barely used from last year.

Once you have an inventory of your supplies, get down to creating a list of things you need to shop for. Not only does the minimize the possibility of giving in to impulse buys when you have a list you can constantly cross reference, but you can also use the list to hunt for deals for each item on your list.

Buy things secondhand 

When it comes to back-t0-school shopping, remember that not everything has to be bought brand-new, straight from the store. Be ready to hunt for some deals and save money where you can.

Textbooks can be one of your biggest enemies when it comes to trying to save money when back-to-school shopping. They’re often required, and something that will be absolutely essential in contributing to your success in a class. Any given textbook can be expensive, and when you are buying textbooks for multiple classes, the costs quickly add up. However, there are still plenty of ways you can save when it comes to buying textbooks. You can rent instead of buying textbooks, or save when you buy the digital or loose-leaf version of your textbook.

You can also save much-needed money by opting to buy what you can secondhand. Textbooks are the obvious option when it comes to what you can find secondhand. Join Facebook groups for your college where you can connect with other students who are looking to sell their old course textbooks. Or, shop online to find used textbooks that will cost a lot less than brand new copies you would find at your campus bookstore.

You will be surprised what you could find secondhand from college students looking to make a quick buck by selling off things they no longer use or have too many of. Students who bought something in bulk only to realize they never needed that much, to begin with. Students who bought the wrong item and never bothered to return it.

Take advantage of back-to-school season 

While it does save you money, not everything can be bought secondhand. Take advantage of stores’ back-to-school sales to stock up on what you don’t have –  notebooks, pens, and so on. If you know you are going to use plenty of a specific item — blank paper, printer ink, notecards, etc. — throughout the school year, try stocking up while you can during back-to-school sales. You may not necessarily need it now, but buying it now can save you the money you would spend on the supplies next semester when there aren’t any back-to-school deals you can take advantage of.

Even if you don’t need a lot of a certain item, buying in bulk may be worth it if it’s a good deal. Ask your roommates or friends if they’re looking to buy the same item and split the cost. If you’re splitting the costs and items with others you’ll save the money without ending up with a surplus of things you don’t necessarily need.

Back-to-school shopping as a college student may not be the exciting extravaganza you experienced as a young child, but it doesn’t have to be a complicated, stressful experience. With these tips in mind, you will be ready to tackle your next round of back-to-school shopping without breaking a sweat, or your tight budget.

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