Do you have a recipe that uses wine? You could win a trip to Napa Valley with Joy Bauer!

Your back-to-school shopping cheat sheet: How to get the best in-store deals

Some school districts have been back in session for weeks, while others won't start till after Labor Day. This year, the International Council of Shopping Centers reports 90 percent of shoppers will be lured out of the house and into physical stores by the promise of money-saving sales. Here are a few strategies from the experts to try to save money on all those pencils and Trapper Keepers.

Use comparison shopping apps 
Plenty of stores will try to get your attention with "loss leaders" — items with steep discounts designed to draw you into the store — then charge you more for related items. If you’re prepared with a list of the things you must have and their prices, you can take advantage of deeply discounted items and resist more expensive impulse buys. 

Favado helps you compare in-store prices and make shopping lists. “It’s free and gives you access to thousands of store ads from across the country,” says Sarah Roe of MoneySavingQueen.com. “You can see advertised and even unadvertised sales for groceries and back-to-school deals.” Another app,  SaleSorter, can also help you find the best deals in your area. 

If you do suspect an item is priced too high, download the Shop Savvy Barcode Scanner app to find a better deal on the same item. “Use it to scan an item's barcode and it will pull up the item's price at online retailers and local merchants as well,” says Michelle Madhok, CEO of SheFinds Media. Similarly, Amazon’s free Price Check app, available for iPhone and Android, will allow you to search for the prices of scanned items on Amazon.com. 

Ask stores if they have their own app. For Target shoppers, the new Cartwheel app provides a list of coupons for items throughout the store. Download the offers you want, and scan the coupons from your phone when you get to the register. 

Know when clothes will be marked down
While it makes sense to stock up on school supplies for the first week, it’s a good idea to wait on clothes. “If your child wants a new outfit for the first day, shop the summer selection, which will likely be heavily reduced during this time,” says Madhok. “Then towards then end of September and early October, start shopping for fall items. By this time they will likely be marked down.”

Even school uniforms tend to go on sale by October, so buy only the minimum now and wait to stock up later in the year. 

You can also plan to shop during the times that stores are most likely to have markdowns. For example, Kohl's marks items down on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

Ask about a store’s price matching policy
Store policies vary, but many retailers will honor a lower price offered by a competitor, and some may even allow you to price-match using a smartphone right on the spot. Staples, for example, claims it is offering the lowest prices on back-to-school items, all season long. If there’s any doubt, they back it up with a 110 percent price match guarantee. That means if you can find an item priced for less, Staples will give you the difference plus 10 percent. Retail giant Wal-Mart will match lower prices that you find at other stores. “If you happen to have a coupon, you can combine the coupon with the price match for double the savings,” Pavini says.  

Even if you find the lower price after you’ve made your purchases, Wal-Mart’s Savings Catcher site will make good on its price match promise. Once you enter your receipt number, the site scans ads in your area. If there’s a lower advertised price, you get a gift card for the difference. 

  • Slideshow Photos

    21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    Too cool for school? Not with these creative lunchboxes that will keep your food fresh and your kid happy.

  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Monster Geek -

    Get your geek on with this cute monster geek lunch bag. This machine-washable bag can easily be cleaned. Sized to fit lunch, a snack and a drink bottle, with inside mesh pockets to keep things stashed and stowed.

    dabbawallabags.com / dabbawallabags.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Yumbox bento box -

    Yumbox is a kid-friendly, bento-style lunch container made with high-quality, durable, BPA-free, food-safe materials. The lunchbox fits standard-size lunch totes and has an easy open latch.

    Yumbox.com / Yumbox.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Pow! -

    These lunch bags are made from organic cotton with azo-free dyes and a food-safe (no phthalates, BPA or lead) lining that's also washable.

    shak-shuka.com / shak-shuka.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Butterfly -

    This lunch kit includes a recycled cotton lunch sack and napkin, stainless-steel water bottle, food kozy wrap and two stainless-steel containers. Durable and non-toxic, the complete lunch kit is a great alternative to plastic containers.

    kidskonserve.com / kidskonserve.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Dreamy day -

    This lunchbox features a child’s name on multiple sides and a chalkboard on the inside lid where you can write a personalized note to your child each morning.

    iseeme.com / iseeme.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Dinosaur -

    This kid-friendly lunchbox that is coated in linen comes in a bunch of retro-inspired designs. It can be worn as a backpack or messenger-style. Every cooler bag and lunchbox comes with a leak-proof, insulated insert for easy cleaning and to help avoid staining from spills.

    soyoung.ca / soyoung.ca
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Mackenzie Camo -

    This insulated bag features multiple compartments and reusable utensils. The bag features a molded interior so it’s easy to clean and an adjustable shoulder strap. The food box and utensils are made from stainless steel.

    potterybarnkids.com / potterybarnkids.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Lunch purse -

    This lunch purse is the ideal grab-n-go choice for both moms and girls of all ages and serves double duty as an lunch tote or carryall for essentials.

    dabbawallabags.com / dabbawallabags.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Portal 2 Companion Cube -

    This sturdy tinlunch box, fashioned to look like a Companion Cube from the video game Portal 2, is adorable and durable.

    thinkgeek.com / thinkgeek.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    PlanetBox -

    PlanetBox, part bento box, part TV dinner tray, has segmented containers to pack no-waste meals.

    planetbox.com / planetbox.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Aquarius Boombox -

    Kickin' it old school is what you will be saying with this retro boom box tin lunchbox.

    amazon.com / amazon.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Block bento -

    The Block Bento is a practical, two-tier bento box that has a flexible, leak-resistant lid. A pair of chopsticks is included, which fits into a special slot on top of one of the inner lids. An elastic bento belt in a matching color is included.

    bentoandco.com / bentoandco.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Funny dog -

    This funny dog soft insulated food bag is a simple yet cute lunchbox that will make everyone giggle.

    amazon.com / amazon.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Spaceboy -

    This lunchbox is decorated with retro art that any boys, or even grown-ups and girls, would like.

    mysweetmuffin.com / mysweetmuffin.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Hot Wheels -

    This fully insulated lunchbox has flashing LED lights and comes with a free Hot Wheels car.

    amazon.com / amazon.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Goodbyn Bynto -

    The Goodbyn Pink Bynto Box is lightweight, microwave-friendly and has a handle at the top. Complete with a secure lid, this durable box will ensure there are no unsightly leaks in your little one's bag.

    goodbyn.com / goodbyn.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Icky Bugs -

    The Icky Bugs laminated cotton canvas lunch sack is the ideal choice to carry small lunches or snacks. Features full insulation, a hook-and-loop closure, interior card for ID information and a convenient handle strap.

    readisetgo.ca / readisetgo.ca
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Build a Lunchbox -

    This lunchbox comes with stickers so the little ones can decorate their own. The kit comes with one plain metal lunch box and a choice of a sticker book.

    lunchboxes.com / lunchboxes.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Skip Hop -

    The Owl Lunchie is the perfect-sized bag for lunchtime at school. The Lunchies have a large, main compartment that zips closed, keeps food and drinks cold and is easy to wipe clean. It also includes a place inside to write your littile one's name and a clip that can attach to any backpack when they're on the go.

    Skip Hop‎ / Skip Hop‎
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    Disney Frozen -

    This cool tin box with latch closure features a picture of Anna and Elsa from Disney's "Frozen."

    amazon.com / amazon.com
  • 21 cool ways to pack your lunch for back to school

    of

    TMNT Shell -

    Don't let hunger pangs hit in the middle of a battle with Shredder and the Foot Clan. Remember to pack ahead and fill this radical turtle shell lunch box with a slice of your favorite pizza for extra energy.

    Nordstrom / Nordstrom

Search for student deals before you shop 
“For example, Apple offers a $100 gift card when students buy a Mac for college and Dell is giving away free tablets when students buy certain laptops and desktop computers,” says Jeanette Pavini of coupons.com.

Take advantage of future markdowns
Depending on your retailer’s price adjustment policy, you may be able to save on items that are marked down after you buy them. “At some stores, if you make a purchase and the items go down in price within a certain period of time (typically 14 days) you can bring back your receipt and get a refund for the difference in price,” Pavini says. The savings can be most significant when shopping for clothes. Whenever you buy clothes, Pavini recommends marking on your calendar the last day you are eligible for a price adjustment if the items go down in price. 

Be aware of return and price adjustment policies wherever you shop. “If you go over budget,” Madhok says, “you'll want the option to return items you don't need or get some money back if the store (or another store) marks down an item after you purchased it.”

This story was originally published on Aug. 8.

0:00
 
0:00
Your video begins in
0:00
TOP