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How can I be smart about back-to-school shopping?

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Parents and caregivers may feel that summer has just begun when they start seeing advertisements and store displays promoting the purchase of school supplies. There is a reason for that, as back-to-school shopping is big business! In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, families with children in elementary through high school planned to spend $848.90 on back-to-school shopping in 2021. As the cost of goods continues to increase, we can expect 2022’s estimates to be even higher. But with careful planning and the flexibility to shop early and often, parents can work towards keeping their back-to-school budget in check. Here are some tips for shopping smart before the school year begins:

1. Start with a back-to-school shopping list. Planning is a big part of saving money when it comes to school supply shopping. By making a list in advance, parents are less likely to over-purchase items or purchase unnecessary supplies. While parents and caregivers can look to their child’s school for a main list of supplies needed, be sure to consider other items your child may need, like a lunchbox, clothing, footwear, or items needed for sports and other activities. Make sure to include all clothing and shoe sizes needed before you embark on your back-to-school shopping.

2. Inventory what supplies you may already have. Many parents will be surprised by what supplies they have left over from a previous year or stashed in with art supplies or other things. Have your kids help you hunt through the house for items on your list and you’ll avoid buying things you already have on hand.

3. Save money by shopping early. While the early summer months may feel too soon for back-to-school shopping, starting early is a sure way to save some money. When you’re not rushed to buy things all at once, you’re able to keep an eye out for special sales on certain items. You’ll also avoid the price markup on school supplies that comes closer to the beginning of school.

4. Keep an eye out for deals and promotions. Shop around, in-person and online, and even consider signing up for promotional emails from school supply companies you like. 

5. Take advantage of South Carolina’s Tax-Free Weekend. From August 5-7, 2022, families can take advantage of South Carolina’s Tax-Free Weekend for many back-to-school items. Items included in the tax-free weekend are computers, printers, school supplies, clothing and accessories, footwear, and certain bed and bath items. While you may find better sales on some items earlier in the summer, tax-free weekend is a great time to shop for those more expensive items like computers, clothing, and shoes. 

6. Ask for help when you need it. With inflation at an all-time high, it’s understandable if some school supplies are simply beyond your budget. Most communities have an abundance of locations to provide free school supplies to families who could use the help. Good places to look are The Salvation Army, your local library, different local churches, and The United Way, among others.

For those who aren’t sure what their child may need, basic school supply lists usually include: pencil pouch, No. 2 pencils, pencil sharpener, blue or black ballpoint pens, markers, colored pencils, 3-ring binders, highlighters, erasers, spiral notebooks, folders, glue, ruler, scissors, calculator, backpack, index cards and subject dividers. For more tips on how to get ready for heading back to school this fall, visit or


By ABC Quality Team on August 2, 2022