Your Back to School Shopping — Made Affordably Easy

Find the best deals through proper planning

0826_school_1There’s something about the August air that stirs a sense of uneasiness and excitement among most students and parents. Perhaps it’s the hint of fall visible in the soon-to-be withering leaves, or maybe it’s the oversized Crayola box adorned with the large sale sign hanging in the window of almost every store in the mall.

Either way, parents and students may be readying for the upcoming school year –for different reasons of course. For parents, back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, it can be rather simple with the stroke of a few keys. Focus your shopping online, says Michelle Madhok, online shopping expert, and CEO of MomFinds.com, a mom-friendly blog that aggregates ultra-cheap steals and deals. “Start doing some research online, see where you can get the best prices and figure out what you need,” she adds. So where should you start online? Check out these tips from Madhok:

Optimize your search. Specialty search engines can shave hours off your shopping. Instead of wading through tons of Websites and posts about products you don’t need, utilize search engines that have already narrowed the search for you. One of which, Pronto.com specializes in consumer goods, but the site is perfect for finding the best prices on kids wear, says Madhok. “You can sign up for an e-mail to be sent to you when your favorite bands go on sale too,” she adds.

Get something back. If you’re going to spend the dough, why not earn some of the money back? Check with your bank or credit card company to find out whether they offer incentives for your purchases. For example, Bank of America’s Add It Up program allows account holders to receive up to 20% cash back for all their purchases by shopping at more than 300 retailers through its Add it Up portal online. If you’re not a Bank of America customer, Mypoints.com offers points back on your purchases which are redeemable for gift cards to Target, iTunes, and Amazon.com, among a slew of other retailers. Sign up is free.

Find retailer specific coupons. Coupons can be a hassle to find if you’re ready to shop and you know exactly what you want. To find coupons for exactly what you need, check out RetailMeNot.com, a personal favorite of Madhok. “If you put in the name of a retailer the site comes up with coupons and feedback on if the coupons works.” The site generates printable and e-coupons, and you can search by product. If you’re an iPod Touch or iPhone user, check out Coupon Sherpa, a free application that lets users search hundreds of in-store coupons for many merchants. Once you find the coupon, just scan the barcode during checkout.

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