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Back to School Part 2: 5 most common shopping mistakes

By Paul Nelson  |  Posted Aug 12th, 2011 @ 8:00am


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Ah, the big box stores in August. They might not be as packed as they are during the holidays, but they can sometimes get pretty crazy. That could be why some parents make mistake number one.

Only making one trip

Melea Johnson with Freebies2deals.com said, "This is the one time of year where all of the school and office supplies are really cheap."

Johnson says stores have pens, pencils, notebooks, backpacks, calculators, basically all school supplies at seriously discounted prices. But they won't all be on sale on the same day.

"They lure you into the store with these deals that are super cheap. So, you buy three or four things that are cheap on the school list you have for your kid, and then you end up spending a lot of money on everything else," Johnson said.

She says it pays to keep track of all the sales going on this time of year. You can save a lot of money, even if you have to go back to the store a couple times. But remember, not every deal requires you go to a brick and mortar store. That leads us, nicely, to mistake number two.

Not shopping online

Johnson says you can buy school clothes all year long by waiting for the end-of-season sales and buying clothes your child will grow into. If you know your child's sizes, she says shopping on retailer's websites is pretty simple, and you'll get the best deals during those sales. But, there are other promotions that only happen online.

"Stores will do free shipping and they'll do 20 percent or 30 percent off codes," she said.

Plus, she says some people are more prone to overindulging inside the brick and mortar store. That's where a lot of people give in to impulse buying. Also -- and this is something not all of us parents would like to admit -- we sometimes give in to our children begging us to buy something they saw in the store.

But, how can you tell how good a deal is? That's a beautiful segue to mistake number three.

Not knowing your price points

I'll be honest. I don't know how much a backpack would sell for, regularly. A lot of people don't. So, we end up paying more than we need to, thinking we're getting a great deal.

"If you know that most backpacks run $20, and you find one for $4.99 at Walgreens, then you know that's a 'buy it now' price and you need to get that right now," Johnson said.

You are going to have to do some reading. Johnson says you need to especially pay attention to the promotions on the front page of an ad circular. Typically the items on that page are the "loss leaders," where the store is actually losing money selling that item at that price.

Now that you know what to look for, you need to avoid making mistake number four.

Not stocking up for the future

Imagine you see an ad for a screaming deal on tape. You may say to yourself, "I'm not looking for tape right now. Thanks anyway." Well, you may need a lot of tape around the holidays, so stock up while the price is low.

Blogger Coralie Seright with utahcoupondeals.com said, "I buy four boxes or five boxes of crayons every time we go to the store because they're 20 cents a box, right now. In March and April, they're priced at like a dollar."

Seright says even if you don't live near the store that's advertising, many retailers will match their competitor's price. So, you can still save money. But you need to remember that the lowest price might not always be the best deal.

Purchasing based solely on price

Let's say you're looking for a graphing calculator, and hypothetically, you see one for $50 and another for $60. Seright says you need to check out the reviews on sites like Amazon before you buy one.

"That way, you're not going and spending $50 on a graphing calculator that people hate, as opposed to (spending) $60 and get one that people love," she said.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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