By shopping around and buying from stores you trust, you can make your dollar go further
Have you waited until the last minute for back-to-school shopping? Don't worry, you can still shop smart.
"Across North Carolina, many students are getting ready for a new school year and that means back-to-school shopping," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, in a written statement. "Comparing prices, shopping around, and knowing refund and return policies can help parents and teachers save money and avoid problems while stocking up on supplies."
Cooper is offering the following tips to North Carolinians:
- Have your shopping list ready in advance. Avoid the hassle of returning supplies by studying updated school supply lists carefully before you shop. Make sure you know which sizes, quantities and types of supplies you need ahead of time. Some districts prohibit wheeled backpacks, for example, and others require students provide a specific calculator for advanced math.
- Shop around. Many retailers offer promotions and coupons on popular back-to-school items, but compare prices to be sure you're getting a good deal. Save time and money by asking if the retailer offers a price matching policy if you find a product you bought offered or advertised for less at another store.
- Buy from stores you trust or which even give back. Check with your school to see if it has a recommended retailer that will send a portion of your purchase price back to the school. You can also check out a store's track record by calling the North Carolina Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division or by contacting the Better Business Bureau.
- Shop safely online, too. If you shop online, stick to well-established retailers. Look for lock icons and web addresses that start with "https" to make sure the websites are secure before entering your payment information.
- Consider paying by credit card. Shopping with a credit card rather than debit or checking account transfer can help improve your chances of getting a refund if the retailer goes out of business. If you order items that never arrive, you may be able to dispute the charge.
- Learn about refund and return policies. Stores aren't required by law to accept returned items, so ask about refunds and returns before you buy. Many retailers offer store credit instead of a cash refund, and some charge a restocking fee for returns. Keep your receipts, including for supplies you bought online. If your purchase came by mail, you may have to pay for shipping to return it.
- Watch for return, damaged or replacement terms in rental contracts for musical instruments, sporting equipment, laptops or other high-dollar items needed for school. Also consider whether rent-to-own contracts require you to pay more than necessary.
- Consider buying used. Buying certain items like expensive textbooks and graphing calculators used can help you save money. Check out local resale stores as well as Amazon, eBay and Craigslist for secondhand deals.
- Check mobile device safety and costs. Check with the school to see if kids' mobile devices will be used in class and what filters the school uses for wireless access to avoid inappropriate content. If the school blocks Wi-Fi, check your child's data plan for capacity and charges that could be triggered by phone use.