Inflation chipping away at your back-to-school budget? Here’s how to save – National

Balancing the back-to-school budget has been harder for parents this year as nationwide inflation threatens piggy banks.

According to a study by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) published in late July, more than a third of parents (36.2 percent) expect to pay more for back-to-school than in previous years.

RCC national spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen told Global News that while there are hopes the third season of back-to-school will be more of a “normal year” than the last two amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the high inflation rates new pressure families.

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“I think everyone is watching their wallets a little more closely than they have in the past,” she says.

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Retailers are also taking note of tighter budgets this back-to-school season.

John DeFranco, chief commercial officer at Staples Canada, said in a statement to Global News that the office supply retailer is cutting prices on 50 top-selling items as Canadians are “more value-conscious than ever.” Walmart Canada, meanwhile, said in a statement to Global News that there have been price “rollbacks” on back-to-school items “to help our customers weather this period of inflation.”

But aside from relying on offers from retailers, Global News spoke to personal finance experts who have a range of tips to help parents cut costs as the return to classroom draws closer.

Major retailers and clothing stores are the top spots to go back to school, according to a June survey by the Retail Council of Canada.

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Plan ahead and avoid double work

Before you even walk into the store or add an item to your online shopping cart, experts recommend first taking stock of what’s in good condition and can be reused, and what needs to be on the list for the year ahead.

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A thorough search of drawers and closets can ensure you’re not buying duplicates of commonly stashed school supplies, says personal finance author Sandy Yong.

“By doing that initial check to scan what you already have in your house, it can really make sure that you don’t already have it and that you’re using something you’ve already bought,” she says.

For personal finance expert Nathalie Douglas, most of the items she needs to replace for her five-year-old son Mason this year are in the clothing department.

She says buying shirts and the like from stores like H&M that have sizes from four to six years old rather than one year old can help justify buying something at a higher price point.

“The clothes are a bit more expensive, but they last longer, which I like,” she says.

Mother of two and personal finance expert Nathalie Douglas with her son and daughter.


As parenting expert Alyson Schafer suggests, get your kids involved in separating “needs” from “wants” when making their back-to-school list.

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If the backpack breaks and needs replacing, set a modest budget for a new or used backpack and let your child decide if it’s worth contributing their own pocket money or babysitting money for one of the most expensive branded options, she suggests.

“You may need to negotiate with the kids what is an appropriate amount for the family budget,” she said Global News Morning last week.

After setting a firm budget, Schafer suggests loading that amount onto a prepaid credit or gift card and, when they’re old enough, sending the kids to do the shopping themselves.

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This can help them determine for themselves what is really worth spending money on and give them a sense of ownership of their back-to-school staples.

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“They like the fact that they made the choice,” says Schafer. “And you know what, those staplers and those lunch boxes need better care. They come home from school, they don’t stay behind on the playground.”

If there are some clothes or items that make it through the first few weeks of the school year, families could make savings by waiting until October, when stores clear their back-to-school supplies to make room for Christmas items, Yong says.

“You can find deals on jeans and other items that weren’t necessarily on sale in the weeks leading up to September,” she says.

Refurbished electronics an affordable option

One of the biggest pain points that’s fueled inflation over the past year has been knotted supply chains, affecting everything from groceries and gasoline to the semiconductors that power students’ laptops and tablets throughout the school year.

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Schafer said electronics is one item in the back-to-school basket where early purchase could make the difference in whether your child or college-age student starts the year on the right foot.

“We’re still seeing these longer supply chain issues. If you wait until the week before school, you may not have the laptop you need for your first day of homework,” she said.

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Back to school tech gadgets

Back to school tech gadgets

Douglas tells Global News that whenever it comes to “very expensive items” like personal gadgets, she always goes the second-hand route.

Stores like Factory Direct can offer refurbished electronics at a lower price than buying new, and by shopping at local buy and sell communities or even swap groups you can find the gear you need at a great price.

eBay Canada general manager Rob Bigler told Global News in a statement that the company saw an uptick in business over the past year when it launched its one-to-two-year warranty program on refurbished electronics. He said he expects that trend to continue in today’s “highly inflationary environment”.

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Even so, laptops routinely top the $1,000 mark. In such cases, Douglas recommends allowing as much lead time as possible when purchasing: For example, if you know your child will need a laptop by the time they enter high school, put aside a portion of the cost of that device every month for a year in advance.

“In the end you are ready. You put the money aside and it’s less stressful,” she says.

Wasylyshen says that while there are still delays on some specific items, the overall improvement in supply chains of late means buyers should be able to find most items on their list when they’re ready to make a or make two compromises.

“There are many products on the shelves. We’re just emphasizing that consumers may sometimes need to choose a different brand, color or similar when going to the store to make their purchase,” she says.

– with files from Anne Gaviola of Global News

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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