Submitted by the Better Business Bureau of Upstate NY
Getting ready to go back to school? Join the crowd! In 2012, $83.8 billion was spent on back-to-school shopping in the U.S., according to the National Retail Federation. That breaks down to the average person spending around $688.62 on children in grades K-12.
"It's important to take your time and plan accordingly when it comes to the shopping process," said Warren Clark, president of BBB serving upstate New York. "Knowing what questions to ask and having a plan can save both time and money."
Of course, not everyone will spend that much, but before you dive into buying new clothes and supplies, check out these back-to-school budget tips from BBB:
•Reuse. Sort through last year's school supplies and clothes to see what can be reused.
•Comparison shop. You may be surprised how prices vary on school supplies. Watch for sales and start saving coupons.
•Ask about returns and refunds. Shopping for new clothes, accessories and gadgets is one of the highlights of going back to school. When buying new gear, ask the store about its return policy, and always keep the receipts. Stores are not legally required to exchange an item or give a refund.
•Keep the item in its original box. Many retailers will not accept returns on opened video games, CDs, software or DVDs. And health regulations prohibit returns of hats and other intimate apparel.
•Ask about restocking fees. Some merchants charge a restocking or "open box" fee - sometimes as high as 20 percent of the original cost - for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items. Ask if that is the policy so that you know before you buy.
•Shop smart online. Find out the physical location and phone number of the merchant. Read the refund and return policy, have in writing any warranty or guaranty details, be familiar with delivery and shipping costs and time schedules, feel comfortable that the merchant is reliable and not the subject of consumer complaints, and be able to trust that any information you submit to complete the sale transaction (credit card number, etc.) will be treated with the proper care.
•Check first. Carefully check out businesses and deals before signing anything, before paying any money up front, and before releasing any personal or financial information.
If your child is in the market for a computer, BBB recommends doing your research:
•Decide what your child's needs will be.
•What is the computer going to be used for? Word processing, graphic/Web design, gaming?
•Determine what type of hardware and software will be required.
•Find out what you have to do if the computer breaks down.
•Check out the warranty on the computer.
•Call your school or university and ask what other students in the class use.
If you are thinking about allowing your college-bound student to sign up for a credit card, do your homework:
•Shop around for the plan that best fits your student's needs. There often are special offers for students.
•Compare terms and fees before you agree to open a credit card for your student.
•Find out the interest rate on the card: Is it an introductory rate, and, if so, how long does it apply?
•Are there annual fees?
•Check into the transaction fees and any other charges that could be incurred.
•Compare prices, and check out the companies with the BBB at www.bbb.org.