LUMBERTON — In eight days, 24,000 Robeson County students will pack up their book bags, pile in mom’s car or hop on the bus and start another school year in the Public Schools of Robeson County.
The average parent in the U.S. will spend about $179 on school supplies alone, according to Parenting Magazine.
Keisha Johnson Parker, a parent of two and a teacher for the Public Schools of Robeson County, said she spent about $400 for her two children, but about $75 of that was spent solely on supplies. The other $325 was spent on clothes and shoes.
“If it’s like every other year, I’m spending close to $50 for supplies getting all of the stuff for Killian on the school’s list, only to have him not use half of it the entire year,” said Sarah Register about her second-grader. “And as far as complaints, just to get Killian’s school list, I have to go on the school’s website because there aren’t any lists up at Wal-Mart until either the week of or week before school actually starts. And a lot of parents may not have access to Internet to get that information. Between the lack of a supply list then the actual supplies not being used, I inevitably waste money.”
Excess school supplies aren’t the only reason some parents will spend more than they should this year. Retail stores have a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to selling their products by making a not-so-reasonable deal look appealing to their customers. In a county where one-third of the population lives in poverty, according to the United States Census Bureau, saving even a few dollars can help a family tremendously.
Here are a few tips to avoid buyer traps and save while shopping for your student’s supplies:
— Avoid end caps and special displays: When visiting a retail store, brand name products are usually featured in special displays. The displays generally have signs that indicate that the price has been reduced. Although this may seem like a bargain, often they are a trap.
End caps and special displays are normally placed in strategic locations for convenience in hopes that shoppers won’t venture down the isles for a better deal.
— Don’t shop without a list: Impulse buys have a knack for wiggling their way into a shopping bag. To avoid overspending, shoppers should ask themselves if that $15 planner is necessary for their elementary school student, or if their high school student really needs a box of crayons. Preparing a list helps shoppers to stay on task and buy what they need, not what they want.
— Brand name isn’t always better: Shoppers tend to steer clear of generic brands because of a pre-conceived notion that off-brand products lack the same quality as name brand products.
“It doesn’t make sense to spend more on something, especially if I can’t tell the difference and won’t appreciate the quality,” said Jim Wang, a personal finance-focused blogger widely revered in the finance community, in an article for CBS news.
While it may be safe to forgo purchasing a flimsy binder that a student will have to use for an entire school year, things like loose leaf paper, pencils and sticky notes generally have the same quality as brand name products.
— Saving apps don’t always bring the best deal: Some stores have apps that shoppers can download with promises of store credits if an item is available for a lower price at other retail stores. Those apps tend to compare apples to apples, meaning brand name product prices are compared with the same products being sold by other retailers.
Such apps can find extra savings, even if only a few cents, that can be put toward a future purchase.
Students in the Public Schools of Robeson County will have open house on Thursday where they will received class-specific supply lists, and school will begin Aug. 29.
Gabrielle Isaac can be reached at 910-816-1989 or on Twitter @news_gabbie.