Back to school shopping (the smart way)

As parents or students (of any age) shopping for back to school supplies, it’s easy to get caught up and think that we need ditch everything from last year and start off the year with all new everything- but by October when the glitz of a new school year is gone, you’re going to look at that credit card bill and wonder if you really needed 7 pairs of new jeans.

If you flip through flyers or watch commercials on TV during the few weeks leading up to September, you’d likely think that some major holiday was on its way. Print ads double in size, your weekly local newspaper is suddenly jammed full with 15 page flyers and massive packs of coupons, and there’s an onslaught of commercials all with a festive vibe to them- parents dancing around with joy as they celebrate their freedom, or kids running up and down aisles in a frenzy, grabbing school supplies in every colour while some upbeat tune plays in the back.

As parents or students (of any age) shopping for back to school supplies, it’s easy to get caught up and think that we need ditch everything from last year and start off the year with all new everything- but by October when the glitz of a new school year is gone, you’re going to look at that credit card bill and wonder if you really needed 7 pairs of new jeans (one for everyday of the week), or that state of the art scientific calculator that cost more than you’d like to admit to anyone.

Here are a 3 of the most common back to school purchases (for all different age groups) that actually make more sense purchasing gently used (or in some cases, not at all.)

Technology

We get it. Times are changing and kids feel the need to get hooked up to the virtual world at a much earlier age than before, but that’s not a reason to go ahead and dish out a few hundred dollars for a new cellphone, or spend over a grand on a new laptop. At that age, they simply need something functional and sturdy, (emphasis on sturdy), so why not buy second-hand for that first big-ticket piece of technology? There are so many different types of electronics put up on Kijiji everyday, and usually they are still in amazing condition- the seller just wants to upgrade or maybe the device did not suit the seller’s particular needs. Take it from us- your 9 year old or your 15 year old isn’t going to ultimately care if that iPad you got them came from someone else as long as they can install Candy Crush on it ASAP. And if you’re a student at the university or college level looking to purchase a new gadget for your studies, look into buying second-hand as well. Everything about post-secondary education is expensive enough. Find ways to cut unnecessary costs and you’ll thank yourself later when those savings translate to much lower debt levels.

Clothes

It’s not that college or university students don’t need clothes, or parents shouldn’t buy any new clothes for their kids. It’s just that the myth we’re sold is that students have grown and changed so much over the year that they now need an entirely new wardrobe to suit their new identities. Everything must be replaced! A smarter way of buying back to school clothes is to do an inventory of what fits and doesn’t fit. Whatever clothing has been outgrown, donate or sell! Then, once you’ve figured out what exactly they is needed and how many, go out and only buy those pieces. You’re going to end up with much less clothing only being worn once or in some cases, not at all, because you forgot it was purchased and it ends up hiding in the corner of the closet with the price tags still on.

Books

This applies to reading and reference books for elementary to high school students as well as university and college textbooks. Novels and textbooks are often items you can and should purchase used. For the elementary and high school set, if the goal is just to provide them with a hefty stack of books to read at home to boost their reading comprehension, then consider scouring garage sales for collections of paperbacks. They go as low as fifty cents a book and chances are, they’ll be read once and then tossed away. For the university and college group, your textbooks are so expensive and you’ll go through so many of them that it just doesn’t make sense to buy a brand new one unless you can’t find a functional used copy. Most college and university campuses have their own used textbook stores or websites, but if you can buy direct from another student from a site like Kijiji, you will likely save yourself some cash (and help out another student). Be sure to ask the seller about the condition of the book and ask for close-up pictures of the covers and a few select pages. Also, don’t forget to ask the seller how much the book has been written in or highlighted. Depending on your preferences (and the highlighting skills of the prior owner), highlighted text books can make skimming much faster and more efficient, or, they could be a distraction and take away from the value of the book.

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