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Safe Back-to-School Shopping on a Budget

Mom holding two of her kids' hands as they walk to the bus stop.


It’s time for back-to-school shopping! This year’s back-to-school season requires shoppers to try sticking to their budgets, and purchase everything on their lists, without exposing themselves or their kids to the coronavirus. Here’s how to shop for school safely and without breaking the budget.


Set a budget

Like all expensive times of year, it’s a good idea to set a realistic budget for covering all your expenses during the back-to-school shopping season. Take some time to look through your kids’ school supply lists, jot down any other necessities you need to purchase for them now, like clothing items, backpacks, and devices, and set a reasonable budget you can stick to realistically. If you dare, you can take it one step further and assign a dollar amount to each category.

Order online

While nothing compares to shopping in person, if you’re trying to avoid crowded stores and frequently touched inventory, your best bet is to shop online. You can find everything your child needs for school on sites like Amazon, Target.com, and Walmart.com. Staples, Best Buy, and Home Depot offer a wide selection of school supplies, backpacks, and electronics on their websites as well. Most big brands offer quick and cost-free delivery when you spend a minimum amount. Also, when shopping remotely, comparison shopping for the lowest price is as simple as clicking on and viewing a couple of different tabs. 

Shop the sales

Don’t throw out any flyers that land in your mailbox this summer! Retailers tend to place different back-to-school items on sale each weekend throughout the summer, and if you’re a careful shopper, you can take advantage of them all. You’ll need to know when each store is having a sale on which item, so be sure to check out their sites or flip through the sale flyers to find the best bargains leading up to school starting. 

Pair up with a friend

If you’d prefer not to spend too much time and energy on shopping for school supplies, but you still want to save money, consider pairing up with another parent. You can split the supply list between the two of you, with each parent buying items for the kids in both families. This way, one of you can run across town to the store with the crazy deals on crayons, pencils, and glue, while the other picks out binders and notebooks at the store selling these items at the lowest price. As a bonus, you’ll be limiting your exposure to the virus by shopping in fewer stores. 

Avoid the crowds

For those items, you must purchase in person, time your shopping for hours when stores tend to have smaller crowds. Consider an early-morning run or an evening shopping spree instead of an afternoon of hitting the shops. The fewer people there are in a store at the same time as you, the lower the possibility of one of them carrying the virus. 

Don’t forget the masks

The CDC continues to recommend face coverings for all students in K-12 schools. While you may already have a sizable collection of masks in your home, consider purchasing some new masks for your child before school begins. After a summer at home, getting used to wearing a mask for hours at a time again will be challenging, and a collection of new, breathable masks will make it easier for your child to adjust. 

These adorable masks from Crayola can be an excellent choice and come equipped with a laundry bag and name tag. These masks from Athleta are super-breathable and great for sports. If you’d prefer not to worry about your child misplacing their masks, try these disposable child-sized face masks, complete with kid-friendly patterns. 

It’s back-to-school season and you want to play it safe — and still stick to your budget. Follow the tips outlined above for a safe back-to-school season that doesn’t break your budget. 

Your Turn: Do you have a back-to-school shopping hack to share? Tell us about it in the comments. 

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