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It’s that time of year again. Labor Day doesn’t just celebrate the labor movement and the contributions of America’s working class. It also signifies the end of summer, and with that, the return to school for many students and teachers across the state.

A recent survey by the National Retail Federation found that total back-to-school spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion. If you’re planning on restocking your armory of pens, pencils and notebooks and shelling out big bucks for new electronics, textbooks and clothes for a new school year, we’ve put together some tips that might help save you some money during your back-to-school shopping!

Make a list of needs and wants and how much you are willing to spend. Every student and teacher needs the same basic essentials (and many schools post the required back-to-school necessities on their websites). Stick to your list and your budget and if there is money left over at the end, put it in savings or purchase some of the “wants.”

Shop at home!  Parents and students often neglect what they already own, and accidentally end up over-purchasing new products.  Dig through your desk drawers and storage bins and take inventory of the clothing and supplies you already have.

Compare prices at different stores. Spending a little time upfront to research prices can make a huge difference. Consider buying items in bulk with classmates or friends or purchasing from dollar stores, office supply stores, and even consignment and resale shops.  Remember, not every item has to be brand new or a popular brand name. Don’t be afraid to ask a retailer if they will match a competitor’s prices either (provided the stores are reasonably similar). It may be beneficial to bring a copy of the ad with you as proof!

Shop during tax-free holidays and other big savings sales.  Massachusetts recently passed a law creating a permanent Sales Tax Holiday every August. Holiday weekends such as Labor Day and Columbus Day, along with Black Friday, often tend to be good times for consumers to find deep savings on certain items.

Buy things that will last for more than one season. When possible, avoid what’s trendy and purchase what’s durable. Backpacks, certain shoes and clothes, and other basic school supplies can last for a few years (if made well and treated well) which will save you money in the long-run. What’s cool this school year may not be next year!

Put credit card rewards to use. Cash back credit cards can give you big returns on your purchases. But be sure you know your spending limit and your interest rate. Although it may seem like it at the time, credit cards aren’t free money, and you will need to pay your balances!

Understand return policies and save your receipts! There is no set law on return policies in Massachusetts. Make sure you know if you can return items that don’t fit or aren’t needed before you purchase them so you don’t get stuck spending money on things you can’t use!

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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