Consumer

Back to-school savings: Where to find great deals

Aug. 9, 2013 at 1:28 PM ET

Video: Back to school shopping is the second biggest retail event behind Christmas sales, and a growing number of states are offering a sales-tax break on school supplies as an incentive to spend. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

The new school year is about to start and you still have so much shopping left to do. No worries. It's not too late to snag some bargains.

Even though you’ve already missed some back-to school sales, a lot of great deals are just being rolled out. Mid- to -late August is typically when you’ll find the best prices on kids’ clothing, according to the website dealnews.com.

Many families have held off on their back-to-school shopping this year, according to a recent Associated Press report, and that could result in even sweeter discounts being offered in the next few weeks.

"It was a lousy start," retail consultant Walter Loeb told AP. "There will be even more discounts to make up the sales."

If there are things you want, but you can wait for — maybe a backpack or a few extra pieces of clothing — you can snag some super deals through September, as retailers try to close out the season. 

“With a lot of summer items, if they can transition into fall or winter, you can see discounts of up to 90 percent off,” said Lindsay Sakraida, features editor at dealnews.

Just remember, the selection will be limited which could be a problem if your kids are really particular about what they want.

Technology discounts 
Why pay full price for that laptop, tablet, cell phone or other piece of technology your child needs? Think refurbished and you can save 20 to 30 percent on these just-like-new products.

“This is pretty much a no-brainer if you’re trying to save money on back-to-school technology,” said Rob Caskey, vice president of Secondipity, a site that specializes in refurbished electronics.

And don’t let the “refurbished” label turn you off to these deals.

“The refurbished products we offer come with the manufacturer’s warranties, just like a new product would,” Caskey said. “They’re reconditioned to factory specifications. So, you’re really getting a product that is like new, but you’re paying a lot less for it.”

Many online electronics stores offer refurbished items, as do many big name manufacturers. A quick search on the Acer website turned up a number of Aspire laptops (with Windows 8) for between $150 and $475 off suggested retail. They all had a standard one-year warranty.

This is current technology, the same items that in stores. These items just made their way into the secondary market for some reason, maybe the packaging was damaged or the product was a return and can’t be sold as new.

Consumer Reports has some timely tips on how to get back-to-school discounts on computers and other electronics.

Save on school supplies 
The sales are in full swing and they’re deals are mighty tempting. Just don’t base all of your shopping on a few eye-catching offers.

Video: Amy Astley from Teen Vogue discusses a nationwide program called “Back to School Saturday” where a variety of stores are offering deep discounts on clothes that will help give your kids a trendy look to start the new school year.

“Stores lure you in with great deals, like pencils for a penny, but you have to be careful or you could wind up paying too much for the other items on your list,” said Jody Rohlena, senior editor with Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine. “Beyond comparing the sales, you want to know who has the lowest everyday prices.”

For its August issue, the magazine sent secret shoppers to price-check school supplies at Office Depot, Staples, Target and Wall-Mart. Their shopping list included pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, glue sticks, folders and highlighters.

Wal-Mart and Target had much better prices overall than the office supply stores. Wal-Mart had the lowest prices on the most items. Staples and Office Depot tied for the highest prices on most things on the list.

ShopSmart says if you find yourself beyond the sale bins at an office supply store, you could wind up paying more than twice as much as at a discount store. For example, Norcom Notebook Paper (150 sheets, college-ruled) was $3.01 at Office Depot and just 82 cents at Wal-Mart. That’s a 73 percent difference. And again, this was the everyday price at both stores.

Consumer Reports suggests looking for store brands. They can save you almost 75 percent.

How to be a savvy shopper 
There’s a lot to do to get the family ready for the start of the new school year, but if you take a little time to prepare for your shopping trips, you could save a bundle.

These tips are from the super shoppers at ShopSmart:

  • Check out weekly sales circulars for the best deals: Sites such as Spoofee and SundaySaver link you to local ads for dozens of stores.
  • Download the weekly ads and sales app: This mobile tool, free for Apple, lets you see the latest ad pages while on the go without dealing with paper clutter.
  • Look for sales online: Online prices often match those in stores, but you may have to shell out for shipping if you buy via the web.
  • Ask for a price match. If you finda better deal somewhere else, show the cashier the competitor’s ad on your smartphone or from the paper and ask for a price match.

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.

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