A reader: Your column last week on buying laptops was helpful. I wanted to know if you have any other tips on buying school supplies and knowing if a back-to-school special is a good one or not. Is there such a place to go?
Action Line: With some schools already in session and others right around the corner, the emails from educators and the robo-calls from schools are beginning. Back-to-school specials are running now and will continue through the end of summer. Go to www.bbb.org/backtoschool to find tips, including these:
Create a budget. A budget will help shape your shopping list and help limit purchases to only items you need. Knowing your budget also will allow you to put money toward larger items or a special purchase.
Create a shopping list. Make a list by child or by store to avoid multiple trips. Check school supplies that you may have left over from last year.
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Research major purchases. When shopping for laptops, calculators, dorm refrigerators and other large purchases, do your homework. Research the brands you’re looking for to see what meets your expectations.
Check for educational discounts. Some computer and software companies offer discounts to students and teachers with .edu email addresses. Some of these can be substantial, so check around.
Don’t miss sales. Compare prices between different stores, save coupons, and be sure to redeem cash-back or rebate offers. Sign up for email alerts and download shopping apps for your favorite stores (RetailMeNot is one popular coupon and discount app).
Buy in bulk. Some schools ask parents to buy items that will be used by the entire class (tissues, hand sanitizer, etc.). Get together with other parents to shop in bulk. Parents of college students also can buy in bulk for snacks, toiletries and other items for future “care packages.”
Save your receipts. You’ll need them if you want to make an exchange or return an item. Remember some items are nonrefundable or have a 30-day return period.
One last tip: Parents, try not to let your kids see you celebrate the first day back to school too much!
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.