Make the Most With These Tips for Shopping Smartly and Safely This Back-to-school Season
Keeping a few simple tips in mind can help the hunt for school supplies go more smoothly
It's the most wonderful time of the year for parents. Across North Carolina, parents, students, and teachers are preparing for the beginning of a new school year, which means getting clothes, shoes, pencils, notebooks, backpacks, computers, and other necessary school supplies. Keeping some smart shopping tips in mind can help the hunt for school supplies go as smoothly as possible while saving money.
Back-to-school shopping tips to keep in mind:
- Shop around.
- Buy from stores you know.
- Shop safely online, too.
- Consider buying used or second-hand.
- Learn about refund and return policies.
- Consider paying by credit card.
Many retailers offer promotions on popular back-to-school items, but compare prices to be sure you're getting a good deal. Ask if the retailer offers a price matching policy if you find a product you've purchased offered or advertised for less at another store. This can save you time and money if it keeps you from driving around in search of the lowest price. Don't be afraid to whip out that smartphone and browse online retailers for a particular item you find on the shelves. You can even sometimes scan the barcode and find the product quickly. And this advice goes in reverse, too. If you're shopping online, check local stores, especially for bigger ticket items. You can often find a sale on items locally that are designed to get consumers back into the store.
Buying from reputable, well-established retailers improves the odds that you'll be able to return or exchange a purchase if needed. To check out a company's track record, call the North Carolina Attorney General's Office or contact your local Better Business Bureau.
If you shop online, stick to well-established companies with secure websites, those with a lock icon on the site (or similar) and a web address that starts with "https." If you haven't heard of the company, do some checking of the company's street address and telephone number. Some scammers make websites that look like they belong to a legitimate business but have street addresses that come back to post offices and package stores.
Buying certain items used, especially expensive text books and electronics (think pricey graphic calculators), can save you a lot of money. Check out local resale stores as well as websites such as eBay, Craigslist, and similar for second-hand deals. You an often get items that were barely used or that are basically new but missing tags.
Stores aren't required by law to accept returned items, so ask about refunds and return policies before you buy. Many retailers offer store credit instead of a cash refund, and some charge a "restocking fee" for returns, especially electronics items. Hang on to receipts, including printed receipts for online purchase. If your purchase came by mail, you may have to pay shipping to return it.
Paying by credit card will improve your chances of getting a refund if the retailer goes out of business or if you have a problem with the order. If you order supplies that never arrive, you can dispute the charge.