(BPT) - The cost to send children back to school increased 5.3 percent for elementary and middle school students and 9.5 percent for high-schoolers last year, according to Huntington National Bank's annual Backpack Index. When prices increase that much from year to year, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and look for ways to save.
Before the back-to-school sales are posted, start creating lists of the supplies your children will need so you can keep an eye out for when they go on sale. There’s a good chance your school district already has a supplies list posted on the district’s website. Next, put these strategies to use to save even more money:
* Buy in bulk – No. 2 pencils, notebooks, 3-ring binders and folders are items that have been on school-supply lists for decades, and even with the advancement of technology, they will probably still be required long after your children graduate. If you have the storage space, stock up on these items to take advantage of bulk discounts; you’ll have access to the supply for many years to come. If you don’t have the storage space, contact friends with children, and ask if they want to go in with you on a bulk purchase, helping everyone save some money.
* Shop online – Coupon codes and discounts for free shipping are readily available during the summer months. Ebates.com has thousands of deals via online retailers, providing you with plenty of opportunities to save on all your back-to-school shopping needs. In addition to offering discounts, Ebates.com also has a cash-back program. For example, if you decide to purchase school supplies from Target.com, you can earn up to 2.5 percent of your total purchase, providing you with additional savings.
* Use an app – Price-comparison apps are making it easier for parents to take advantage of back-to-school sales. Most of them are set up for you to type in a product’s name, and they provide you with the store and price of the item. Some also have alerts to notify you when a price drops or when a price is listed at the amount you want to pay for the item.
* Membership discounts – If you belong to travel membership clubs, wholesalers clubs or other clubs that offer membership perks, ask about discounts for your back-to-school shopping list. Keep in mind that your children will probably need new clothes for the school year, and clothing discounts can add up to significant savings.
The Backpack Index estimates families of elementary students spent $577 on school supplies last year. That amount rose to $1,223 for high-school students. These strategies for finding discounts can help your family significantly reduce those costs, while still sending your children to school with the supplies they need.