It’s not only the students bemoaning the start of back-to-school season – it’s their parents, too.
Well, at least financially.
A 2022 Deloitte Back-to-School Survey found 57% of back-to-school shoppers are concerned about a surge in spending, with expectations it will reach a new high of $661 per student. This is an increase of $53, or 8%, from the 2021-22 school year.
“Inflation is definitely impacting the way people are planning for this event,” says Lupine Skelly, retail research lead for the Consumer Industry Center at Deloitte, in a company blog post. “Three in five said they were concerned about higher back-to-school prices, [plus] people are dealing with higher grocery and gas prices, which means you’re really going to have to budget.”
Similarly, Lesley Deas, senior research manager at Flipp, an app and website that lets you browse or search through store circulars, found 43% of parents expect to spend more this year.
“We saw that higher prices are impacting how parents plan to shop and what they expect to spend,” says Deas, based on findings from Flipp’s commissioned survey in June, conducted by Maru/BLUE. “This is in part because in-class learning has fully resumed, but parents said ‘higher prices’ are the main reason for their budget adjustments.”
Fortunately, there are several free apps, websites and browser extensions that can help students and parents find deals on back-to-school essentials.
They each work a little differently, but the following are five worthy considerations.
Formerly eBates, Rakuten pays members cash back every time you shop online through participating retailers, with more than 3,500 supporting stores, says the company.
Here’s how it works: Sign up for a free account and launch the app or website whenever you want to start shopping (or opt for the browser extension). Then if you buy something from one of the supported retailers, Rakuten shares the commission they get from stores, for sending you their way.
The percentage you get back varies. You can choose to be paid by check, PayPal deposit or as American Express Member Rewards points.
Rakuten also offers a $30 Referral Bonus if someone you refer signs up and makes a $30 purchase within 90 days.
Flipp aggregates those paper circulars (store ads) we get delivered to our door, but also highlights the best deals, too.
Type in your zip code and the app or website will list your local retailers and the sales and coupons they’re offering, whether you’re looking for electronics, household items, fashion, school supplies or groceries.
You can browse the more than 2,000 retailers or search by keyword, while a “Watch List” tracks the deals you want on specific items and has Flipp notify you when new deals arrive.
The app also holds all your loyalty and store rewards cards virtually to scan upon checkout, instead of carrying a pocket- or purse-full of plastic.
Slickdeals is a website, app and browser extension, with a community of about 12 million savvy shoppers.
Collectively, these deal hunters look for and share great shopping discounts, coupons and promo codes, from all the top stores, including brick and mortar and online retailers, and deals then get vetted by the community through a voting system.
For example, if someone finds a huge sale on, say, a Samsung widescreen monitor ideal for a dorm room, others can confirm and/or clarify the sale, with the best of the best deals often appearing on the Slickdeals Frontpage.
If you’re looking for something in particular, you can set a Deal Alert to be notified when it’s on sale.
As the name suggests, its Cashback Rewards program enables users to receive cash back at participating retailers, via PayPal credit, gift cards and other options.
According to PayPal Honey, this handy shopping companion has helped customers find more than $100 million in savings.
A free desktop and browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge or Opera, PayPal Honey keeps an eye on where you’re shopping online and will automatically apply the best promo codes and coupons it finds at checkout.
Plus, the platform helps you earn cash back on eligible purchases, and you can also add items to your Honey “Droplist” to keep an eye on price drops. PayPal Honey can provide information like price history, alerting consumers if the price has changed over a given time.
Shoppers who like to make back-to-school purchases on their mobile device can install the PayPal Honey mobile browser through the PayPal app.
Amazon Warehouse Deals and Amazon Coupons
Amazon may be the biggest online U.S. retailer, but there are sections of the site and app you may not know about that are designed to save you money.
Just as you might shop at a thrift shop or second-hand store in person, Amazon Warehouse has great deals on quality used or refurbished products. Here you can shop for millions of preowned and open-box items, including used computers and tablets, home and kitchen items, unlocked mobile phones and more.
Even though you’re buying a discounted Amazon Warehouse product, many items qualify for Prime or free shipping (Amazon Prime costs $139/year, with several benefits). These items generally do not come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but all are backed by Amazon’s liberal return policy.
Amazon also has a Coupons section. You can search by keyword or browse by category: Grocery, Pets, Health & Personal Care, Electronics & Wireless, Toys & Games, Home, Garden & Tools, and Fashion & Accessories.
It may not be a lot – such as saving $3 on a box of razor blades or 20 percent off a mattress protector – but why pay more than you need to?
Note: Some coupons may only be available to Amazon Prime customers.
Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.