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BBB reminder: Be smart when shopping for back-to-school items

Submitted Editorial

Thu, Aug 6th 2015 03:35 pm

By the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York

It seems back to school season is starting earlier this year. Retailers in upstate New York are already displaying pens, pencils, electronics and backpacks. The Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York wants to remind those shopping for back to school to be savvy during this, the second busiest shopping time of year.

Parents are already getting their back-to-school lists from teachers and heading out to the stores or going online to shop for the best deals. According to the National Retail Federation, families are scaling back their back-to-school spending. The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $630.36 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $669.28 last year. Total spending is expected to top out at $68 billion, the majority of which will be spent on apparel and electronics.

The BBB offers the following tips for back-to-school shopping:

•Make a list. Even if you don't have a school supply list yet, you can still purchase other items such as clothing and other school essentials like pens, notebooks and binders. Make a list for each child, but start by "shopping at home" for items that you may already have left over from last year. For some items, it's worth spending a bit more (a high-quality backpack will last for years).

•Set a budget. Decide how much you are willing to spend. After taking inventory, create a shopping list and stick to it. Be sure to clip coupons and make a note of discount codes or rebate programs.

•Is it really a sale? BBB promotes honest advertising by working with businesses to help ensure ethical and truthful marketplace. According to BBB's code of advertising, the unqualified term "sale" may be used in advertising only if there is a significant reduction from the advertiser's usual and customary price of the products or services offered, and the sale is for a limited period of time. If you suspect a sale is not really a sale, contact BBB by emailing [email protected] or calling 800-828-5000.

•Ask about returns and refunds. Shopping for new clothes, accessories and gadgets is one of the highlights of going back to school. When you buy your new gear, ask about the in-store and online return policy and always keep your receipts.

•Find out the details about your new data plan. When it comes to cell phones and other devices, you don't want to sign up for something you didn't want. Always check the fine print. Ask about the time commitment, billing details, replacement costs and how you can get out of the contract if you need to. It's time-consuming, but reading your contract carefully can really help you in the long run. 

•Read the fine print when getting a credit card. Credit cards can be very useful and people get offers for new cards all the time. Don't get yourself in a financial jam by signing up right away for a new card. Find out what the new card gives you and definitely make sure you know what the interest rates are, how long any introductory interest rates apply for and when interest begins.

Do your research before buying a new computer. Before you get that new computer, decide what your needs will be and what the computer is to be used for, such as word processing, graphic/Web design or gaming. This will determine the type of hardware and software that will be required and how much you will pay in the end. Shop around for a good price and find out what you have to do (and pay!) if your computer breaks down. Consider leasing to reduce the costs of upgrading your system, but make sure you know the details of your contract.

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB business reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses, and charity reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review and industry self-regulation.

BBB of Upstate New York was founded in 1923 and serves 48 counties.

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