Tips to save money on back-to-school purchases in 2022

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Sharpen your pencils and fill your backpacks because schools will be back in session before you know it. Each new school year often means a new set of supplies, clothing, or a new tech gadget, or maybe all three.

According to the National Retail Federation Back to School Survey 2022, families plan to spend a whopping $864, on average, on school supplies this year. Among college students and their families, that number jumps to $1,199.

With countless back-to-school deals and discounts, it’s important to be smart when choosing your items so you don’t end up overspending or buying unnecessary items. Before you start shopping, read these tips to help you save money on all things back to school.

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Pay with the correct credit card

Credit cards can help you save in two ways. First, by paying with the right card, you may be able to earn generous amounts of cash back and/or benefit from certain cards. 0% APR introductory periods. Second, many credit card issuers offer exclusive limited-time offers through cardholder programs like Amex Offers and Chase Offers, which typically involve more opportunities to earn bonus points or cash back. Please note that activation may be required to participate in these types of offers.

One of the best cards to maximize back to school purchases is the Citi® Dual Cash Card. Cardholders can earn a $200 welcome cash bonus after spending $1,500 in the first six months of account opening, plus 2% cash back on all eligible purchases; that is, 1% cash back on purchases and another 1% once you pay your bill.

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Citi® Dual Cash Card

  • rewards

    2% Cash Back – 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • welcome bonus

    For a limited time, get $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.

  • Annual quota

  • Introductory APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • ordinary APR

  • Balance Transfer Fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an initial balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a 5% balance transfer fee applies to each transfer ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • credit needed

If you have a lot on your shopping list, consider Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card and their generous welcome bonus of an additional 1.5% cash back on up to $20,000 of spending during the first year of account membership – this essentially increases your earning potential to 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% cash back on restaurant and pharmacy purchases and 3% cash back for all other expenses.

After that, you’ll earn regular reward rates of 5% cash back on travel purchased directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back when you shop at pharmacies and dine at restaurants (including select carry-out and delivery) and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • rewards

    Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 3% cash back on pharmacy and restaurant dine-in purchases, including eligible takeout and delivery, and 1.5% on all other purchases

  • welcome bonus

    Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (up to $20,000 spent in the first year), worth up to $300 cash back. That’s 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% at restaurants and pharmacies, and 3% on all other purchases.

  • Annual quota

  • Introductory APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • ordinary APR

  • Balance Transfer Fee

    Introductory fee of $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • credit needed

Make a list and think twice about each item

It’s a simple but important trick: write what you need, not what you want. Maybe it’s highlighters, a pair of jeans, or a calculator. Before you add an item to the list, imagine how you would use it in your everyday student life, how often you would use it, and why you want it in the first place.

Don’t buy something just because you see your classmates adding it to their carts, and think deeply about the ways the item will enhance your school experience. Once your list is complete, it will provide a mental incentive to stick to just those items, saving you money at checkout.

Buy used or refurbished items

There are many apps and sites to help you track any used or refurbished items on your list, including Amazon, Best Buy, eBay, Etsy, Of pop Y to be boughtamong countless others.

Whether you’re buying textbooks, electronics, or clothing, you’ll pay less this way than if you bought the item new. Plus, you can usually find discounted items in “like new” condition on most of these platforms.

Go through a shopping portal

Shopping portals like Rakuten they allow you to earn cash bonuses, points, or airline miles for your purchases, in addition to the rewards you already earn by using your credit card.

Simply search for the merchant you’d like to buy from on one of these portals, then click to be redirected to their website. Place your order as you normally would, and with just a few extra clicks, you’ll rack up extra rewards. For example, at the time of this writing, you can earn an additional 2% cash back at Apple, Staples, and Office Depot by shopping through Rakuten.

Pro tip: Eligible American Express cardholders can choose to earn Membership Rewards® points instead of cash back for purchases made through Rakuten.

Take advantage of coupon codes

Use browser extensions to compare offers

You may think you’ve found the best deal available, but chances are there are even better prices waiting to be discovered.

Browser extensions like paypal honey locate them for you so you don’t have to search every website to find your pencil case at the lowest price available on the internet. In addition to price comparisons, browser extensions can also automatically apply coupons at checkout or help you earn cash back while shopping online.

paypal honey

On PayPal Honey’s secure site

  • Cost

  • How to save

    Earn Honey Gold points on eligible purchases, automatic coupons and price comparisons.

  • How to use it

    Download the Honey app or install the browser extension.

  • How to receive your savings

    Redeem Honey Gold points for gift cards.

Take advantage of student discounts

If you live in certain states, shop during the sales tax holiday

Bottom line

It can be easy to buy that extra device or expensive backpack when you’re not implementing tools like these to help you save money. Whether you’re just looking for new pens or shopping for a whole new wardrobe, there are always ways to become more price-conscious and find better deals. By using these tips and tricks, you can avoid overspending this back-to-school season.

Editorial note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of Select’s editorial staff and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.