Saving Money While Back To School Shopping

Starting or going back to school can be expensive — the average shopping expenditure associated with commencing studies at or returning to an educational institution averages $630 per student per school year. From school supplies to home/dorm work station expenses to computer- and software-related costs, students face expenditures that are often hard to avoid when it's time to start or return to school.

Therefore, it's important to squeeze the greatest financial savings out of your purchases that are possible. A lot of people don't associate saving money with purchasing, but if done the right way — particularly with credit cards — larger-than-expected savings are often possible.

Reward Programs

Many people may be aware of credit card reward programs, but did you know certain cards have bonus rewards for school supply purchases? For instance, some reward for office supply purchases, Amazon, Target, and more.

Sign-up Bonuses

If you were already planning on applying for a credit card that gives you cash back, why not choose one that will reward you for school purchases, as well? For instance, many cards offers hundreds of dollars cash back if you spend a certain amount within the introductory period of card ownership.

Other cards offer even greater bonuses, so before you rush to get a card, check to see who's got the best offer out there.

Price Matching

How frustrating is it to buy something and then see the price of that item fall in the weeks following your purchase or to find that it's being sold at a cheaper price in another store? It's true that many stores now allow you to bring the receipt back and be credited with the difference in price, but this can be a time-consuming chore involving a second trip back to the shop and research at other outlets. Sometimes the store needs proof in the form of a coupon, store advertisement or printout of an online offer, an additional hoop to jump through.

Fortunately, many credit cards now essentially perform some of these actions for you automatically and give you back the difference electronically.

Online Shopping

Many credit cards offer their own shopping portals that provide ways to save money from specific retailers and increase rewards and cash back when you use their cards to make purchases.

If you're going to be shopping online anyway, this can be a very cost-effective way to do it. In particular, check out the portals of Barclay's Upromise card, the Discover It card and the Chase Freedom card; research them thoroughly before you get one of their cards, so you know which brands and merchandise are associated with which portal.

By calculating the reward or cash back for purchases on these portals and comparing the resulting effective price on them to prices for the same items on other sites, you can see if you're getting a true bargain or if you're not really getting the best value for your money.

Balance Transfers

If you already have a balance on your credit card, spending more with it will only increase the amount you owe. You can cut this amount by doing a balance transfer to a card with a lower APR or to one that offers a zero-percent promotional rate.

A number of cards currently offer zero-percent APR on balance transfers, including the Chase Slate card, which offers not only zero percent on purchases, but also gives zero percent on balance transfers for the first 15 months you have it. The Slate card waives the balance transfer fee (normally three percent) for the first 60 days, which means you save money on the balance transfer fee, as well.

0% APR

If you don't have much money to purchase school supplies at the moment, but can't wait because school is starting soon, there are credit cards that offer a zero-percent APR on purchases for a limited time, which can give you time to pay for the items you bought without incurring interest charges. Be sure to pay off the balance before the promotional period ends! Both the Discover It and Discover It Miles cards fall into this category, offering a zero-percent APR for 12 months.