Shop smart for back-to-school: 10 helpful tips

Wrapping up summer and transitioning back into school or college means it’s time for back-to-school shopping. Shopping for back-to-school items can be stressful and daunting if you don’t know what to look for or how to shop for the right deals.

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Although necessary, back-to-school shopping can be expensive. The National Retail Federation estimates the average family spent $673.57 on back-to-school shopping in 2016. That’s expected to increase for 2017. Each student’s back-to-school needs are different, whether you’re buying a laptop for college or a new pair of shoes for the first day of kindergarten. With the right preparations, back-to-school shopping can be a breeze.

Here are some Better Business Bureau tips:

Prepare a budget. Having a set amount of money to spend going in is a great way to keep yourself from spending too much.

Make a list. Determine everything you need and compare prices so you know what to expect to pay.

Find advertisements and coupons. Advertisements and coupons can help you save a few bucks and bring down the cost of high price or bulk items.

Compare prices. Naturally, some places will be cheaper than others, but some places will provide a better quality product so it's imperative that you make sure you're getting the most for your money.

Network with other parents. See if other families want to do a bulk shopping trip, if they had a particularly good experience at a certain store or if they received a great discount somewhere.

Do research on large purchases. When making a large purchase, such as buying a laptop, thoroughly research the products available. You don't want to spend a large amount of money on something that doesn't fit your personal standards.

Make sure it's actually a sale. According to BBB's Code of Advertising, The unqualified term "sale" may be used in advertising only if there is a significant reduction from the advertiser's usual and customary price of the products or services offered and the sale is for a limited period of time. If you suspect that something labeled "sale" isn't actually a sale, contact your BBB.

Take advantage of Ohio's Tax Free Weekend. This year's tax free weekend starts Friday, Aug. 4, and ends on Sunday, Aug. 6. During this weekend, things such as school supplies under $20 and clothing under $75 are tax free.

Check for educational discounts. For instance, some computer software companies offer discounts to students.

Save your receipts and packaging. You'll need these things to make an exchange or return an item.

You can always contact BBB for a list of BBB Accredited retailers and Business Profiles on one’s you’re considering. Visit or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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