Back-to-School Shopping: 5 Mistakes That Will Bust Your Budget

With a recession possibly approaching, building an effective back-to-school budget is not easy. But here are careless mistakes to avoid.

Back-to-school shopping is in full bloom in late August, with many U.S. schools already open and many more getting ready to open in the next week or two.

Back-to-school-shopping prices are elevated in 2022, with the average spending amount cresting $864 – up about $168, or 24%, from 2019, according to the National Retail Federation.

“For families with two kids, that’s a whopping $1,728,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at “There are plenty of ways to get those costs down, though.”

Avoid These 5 Back-to-School-Shopping Mistakes

Consumer-spending experts agree with that sentiment, noting that avoiding shopping mistakes can keep the family back-to-school-shopping budget in good shape and keep cash in your pocket instead in the till at the big retail chains.

Mistake #1: Buying everything brand new

Whether you’re looking for a new backpack, clothing, or tablet, don’t overlook used options, which can save you a lot of money.

“For instance, you can save 80% off gently used clothing and shoes at sites like Swoondle Society (or even swap clothing for a small trade fee), save up to 60% of school tech by opting for certified-refurnished from reputable retailers like eBay,  (EBAY) – Get eBay Inc. Report Amazon  (AMZN) – Get Inc. Report or Best Buy,”  (BBY) – Get Best Buy Co. Inc. Report said Andrea Woroch, consumer spending expert and founder at the personal-finance site

Some recent deals Woroch came across recently include a pair of refurbished Skullcandy Wireless earbuds going for $28, compared to the regular retail price of $80 and 61% off a certified refurbished HP 17-inch Laptop for just $350.

Mistake #2: Paying With the Wrong Credit Card 

Don’t miss out on valuable rewards. Know which of your cards will give you more cash back for the stores you’re shopping at.

“Better yet, use a flat rate-cash-back [card. The] Bread Cashback American Express Card takes the guesswork out of figuring out which card to use at which store since you earn an unlimited 2% back everywhere and there’s no spending limit,” Woroch said.

Mistake #3: Going With Name Brands

Stick to store brands when it comes to basics for school supplies and clothing for 50% to 70% savings compared with brand-name options.

“For example, you can snag a notebook from Staples’s Tru-Red private-label brand on sale for just 35 cents compared to over $3 for a nearly identical brand-name option,” Woroch told TheStreet. 

“Meanwhile, Walmart’s  (WMT) – Get Walmart Inc. Report uniform polo shirts will run you under $5, but expect to pay around $22 at brand name sites like Lands’ End  (LE) – Get Lands’ End Inc. Report for the same option.”

Mistake #4: Not Using Rewards Points 

It makes sense to get rewarded for all your back-to-school shopping, but too many shoppers can’t be bothered. One recent study noted that Americans hold more than $21 billion of unused gift cards.

“While shopping for all your back-to-school needs, be a savvy shopper and maximize your cash back and rewards,” said Mary Hines Droesch, head of consumer and small business products at Bank of America. 

“Enroll in loyalty programs with retailers, pairing those in-store perks with a rewards credit card that offers cash back on your purchases. “

If your bank offers a no-fee-banking loyalty program, such as Bank of America’s  (BAC) – Get Bank of America Corporation Report Preferred Rewards, take full advantage. “That’s a great way to add in additional rewards such as a credit card rewards bonus to further boost your back-to-school savings,” Droesch said.

Mistake #5: Rushing the Purchase 

Another back-to-school shopping miscue to avoid – don’t purchase items before you know you’ll need them.

“Allow yourself to spread out purchases over the year,” said Kendall Clayborne, a certified financial planner at SoFi. “I always ended up with far more school supplies than I needed in both K-12 and college.”

“It’s okay to wait on purchases that you will not need on week one of school,” Clayborne told TheStreet. “In fact, they may even go on sale after the back-to-school rush is over.”

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