Even in the best years, back-to-school shopping is stressful for moms and dads. But with inflation running amok this year, parents are tackling big price hikes on top of the stress. Fortunately, there are ways they can still save money.

With higher prices are chewing away at every dollar in back-to-school budgets, the KSL Investigators shopped five retailers. We found our list of school supplies increased in price by 15-to-20 percent, and that is just in one year.

To offset inflation, 38% of parents surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they have cut back on spending in other areas. 18% are putting in overtime or have gotten a side gig. And 12% told the NRF they are going into debt or borrowing money to pay for school supplies.

“You have to be even more careful, even more clever, when you’re looking for ways to save on your back-to-school shopping,” smart shopping expert Trae Bodge said. She recommended starting by taking stock of what you have at home.

“Everything’s going to be more expensive and so it’s really important, first of all, to only buy what you need,” Bodge said. “So, I strongly suggest that parents go through their old backpacks, have your kids try and all their clothes, and then evaluate the list from the school and then make your plan.”

Just a few minutes comparison shopping online will save you money. Bodge likes to Google her shopping list.

“The Google shopping platform is really helpful,” she said. “It’ll basically populate an entire page full of where that item is available, how much it is, and then maybe you can pull in the help from a coupon site at the same time and say like, ‘Okay, this one, I can earn 3.5% cashback. There’s no cash back here’ and make your decision accordingly.”

Do not forget dollar stores: our list of supplies proved cheapest at the dollar store we shopped. And sure, get the essentials now but hold off on spending your entire budget: you’ll still find deals after school starts – especially on clothes.

“You want to get a few basics and some couple new pieces so kids can feel special going back to school,” Bodge said.

If electronics are on the list, consider buying last year’s model of computer, tablet, or smartphone – or a refurbished one. Make sure it has a warranty.

But the best thing you can do, said Bodge, is to involve your kids because here is one of the most teachable moments about money and budgeting.

“I do think making a visual example for your child – say, ‘we have X number to spend. This is how much those sneakers are impacting our budget, this is how much we have left for the list from your school.’ And for kids to see how that works from a visual perspective can be very, very helpful,” she explained. “You can show them the difference it can make by buying used or using a coupon. for them to see that now, they will go out into the world eventually much more well informed and hopefully making smarter decisions as well.”

Two more money saving ideas: Buy supplies in bulk and split the cost with other parents. And use price comparison apps. Many of them will allow you to scan barcodes to compare prices with other stores.


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Related: School Essentials Your Kids Need Right Now