Back to school shopping is big, big business, second only to Christmas sales for most retailers. In USA Today, the marketing chief for Staples, Jevin Eagles says, "Back-to-school for us is just another Christmas." Consumers have been spending between $500 and $600 on school supplies over the last few years, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2008 the average American family spent $594.24. In 2009 the number dipped down to $548.72, but jumped back up to $606.40 in 2010. Good news for retailers, but is it good news for your wallet? (For more on on back to school, check out Crazy Company Back-To-School Deals.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Take Advantage of Tax-Free Day
One perk of back to school shopping that can be advantageous to your wallet is "tax-free" day. According to, "residents of about 20 states ... may not have to pay tax on those school supplies." Details of the sales tax holidays vary from state to state, but in many cases it's a blanket tax-free shopping day, so if you've been considering a larger purchase, make it on tax-free day and save significantly.

Technology Purchases
School supplies are a lot more than a couple of notebooks and a pack of pens. High school and college students are switching out the back pack for a laptop bag, and even younger students need a computer to complete much of their homework. Major tech companies respond to the student demand by competing for brand loyalty with back-to-school bonuses, freebies, and discounts.

$100 from Apple
Apple's been known for giving away an iPod with a student purchase of a Mac; this year, they've changed the deal to a $100 credit for digital downloads. The deal only applies to students, parents of students, or faculty and staff members, however.

Best Buy Matches Apple's $100
Rumors abound online that Best Buy, in an attempt to grab some of those potential Apple customers, is also offering a $100 gift card to Mac buyers. The caveat is that it's unofficial and has to be specifically requested. It's definitely worth a try; no word on whether Best Buy's offer only applies to students as well. (For some past back to school specials, read 9 Student Discounts You Shouldn't Miss.)

Microsoft's Giveaway
Microsoft got in the back-to-school tech deals early this year, starting its deal on May 22. According to the official Microsoft announcement, "Students buying a new Windows 7-based PC priced at $699 (U.S.) or more will also get a free Xbox 360 4GB console." That deal is almost good enough to pull those Apple lovers away. An Xbox console, normal purchase price of $199.99 or $100 in digital downloads? It's a $100 value difference that makes a good argument for Microsoft.

Non-students aren't going to be able to take advantage of these specific back-to-school deals from Microsoft and Apple, unfortunately. If you're in the market for a new laptop, your best bet might be to look into the next tax holiday.

Non-Tech School Supplies
Other school supplies, those old-fashioned ones like notebooks and binders and pencils, are another story. Anyone can take advantage of great back-to-school deals on in all the major retailers. Most stores are setting up displays now, or already have, and will be running various deals for the next two months.

The way to take advantage of those deals is to watch the circulars and do some price comparing. Most retailers will rotate their best deals, offering certain items for a penny at certain times, or putting others on 2-for-1 sales and similar promotions. Clothing and shoes go on sale, too, though usually focused on what will appeal to the younger set both in sizes and styles.

Though deals particularly for students exclude the rest of us, smart shoppers can definitely save some money simply by shopping deals, using coupons, and comparing prices to get the best deal on other items. (For some other budgeting techniques, check out 5 Money-Saving Shopping Tips.)

Related Articles
  1. Savings

    10 Ways To Budget When You’re Broke

    Budgets are some of the best financial tools around – when planned properly and followed faithfully.
  2. Savings

    7 Ways to Trim Fat from Your Spending

    Check out these seven ways to cut the fat from your spending.
  3. Savings

    7 Millionaire Myths

    Here are seven millionaire myths and realities that reveal they don’t quite have it all.
  4. Economics

    Explaining Like-for-Like Sales

    Companies use like-for-like sales figures to compare sales volume from one period to another.
  5. Stock Analysis

    Markets Are Tanking: Time to Buy Like Buffett

    Learn about three value stocks Warren Buffett holds in his portfolio. See how Buffett uses market declines to find good deals on stocks.
  6. Budgeting

    How To Save Money When Moving

    Moving doesn't have to be as expensive as you think. Here are some great ways to save money on moving costs.
  7. Budgeting

    The Hard Way We Pay For Convenience

    Convenience is a luxury. However, any cost-conscious individual should be aware of these ridiculous ways we pay for convenience and how to avoid them.
  8. Stock Analysis

    The 6 Best Dividend Stocks in the Consumer Staples Sector

    Learn about the top six companies that make an attractive investment for investors looking for stocks for dividend income investing.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Consumer Cyclical Mutual Funds

    Obtain information on, and analysis of, some of the best performing mutual funds that offer exposure to the consumer cyclicals sector.
  10. Personal Finance

    Top Universities for Getting an MBA Abroad

    Going abroad for an MBA can add cachet when it comes time to get a job.
  1. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How can I invest in electronic retailing (e-tailing)?

    Electronic retail is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. Every year, more people are choosing to purchase ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between JIT (just in time) and CMI (customer managed inventory)?

    Just-in-time (JIT) inventory management focuses solely on the need to replenish inventory only when it is required, reducing ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What economic indicators are important to consider when investing in the retail sector?

    The unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rank as two of the most important economic indicators to consider ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!