If you follow the alphabet soup of generations, the newest cohort is Generation Z. In the U.S., there are nearly 74 million of these youngsters, who were born between 1995 and today.
Gen Z has and will only know a hyper-connected world that communicates using social media and mobile devices. So it makes sense this generation will use technology to find the best deals on supplies, clothing, electronics and books before starting a new school year.
No matter if you’re in high school, in college, or are an older member of Gen Z with young kids of your own, use these five strategies for back-to-school savings.
1. Start online shopping at a rewards site.
If you’ve never used a rewards app or site, they’re a convenient way to get paid for shopping online. When you make a purchase, the retailer pays a commission to the rewards site, and they share it with you.
One of the most popular cashback apps is Rakuten (formerly called eBates). It pays some of the highest rewards and allows you to shop thousands of stores, including Walmart, Amazon, Staples and Macys. Your savings may range from 1% to 6%, although some retailers run promotions with cashback rates of 40% or higher.
Other apps Gen Z should check out include TopCashBack and Dosh. It’s easy to get started by creating a free account and searching for a specific retailer, brand or category of items, such as clothes, beauty, home or back-to-school.
When you click through to a retailer and complete a purchase, you qualify for the promised reward. Your payment may come by check, gift card or PayPal. Plus, many rewards apps offer a bonus for every friend you invite who signs up.
2. Buy clothes from consignment marketplaces.
New clothes can be one of the biggest back-to-school expenses for Gen Z. Try shopping at online marketplaces for new or used items with significant discounts. You can find clothes, shoes and accessories for women, men, teens and young children.
- The RealReal sells a variety of consigned items including clothing, jewelry and watches at a fraction of the original price.
- ThredUP touts being the world’s largest secondhand shopping destination with thousands of like-new styles from well-known brands at up to 90% off retail.
- Poshmark says it’s the largest social marketplace for fashion where anyone can buy, sell and share their personal style.
In addition to getting great deals on these marketplaces, you can earn money for back-to-school expenses by consigning or listing unwanted items from your closet.
3. Find preowned sporting goods.
If going back to school means getting ready for sports, consider buying quality used equipment. Recycling and reusing sporting goods rather than throwing them away allows Gen Z to do something good for the environment and save money: a real win-win.
SidelineSwap is an online marketplace where athletes buy and sell their gear. Listings include equipment for hockey, lacrosse, baseball, golf and skiing.
Consider making a trip to the nearest Play It Again Sports, a neighborhood store that sells preowned sporting goods. It’s also a great place to sell your unused sporting equipment.
4. Get textbooks at a discount.
If you’re heading off to college, textbooks can be surprisingly expensive. But you can avoid retail bookstore prices by renting or purchasing used copies on the Amazon Textbook Store. They claim savings of up to 90% on textbook rentals, 90% on used textbooks and 49% on new textbooks.
No matter where you purchase textbooks, you can trade them in for an Amazon gift card worth 80% of their value.
Also consider joining Amazon Prime Student, a discount program designed for college students. New members get a six-month trial that includes free two-day shipping, unlimited video streaming, photo storage, and discounts on a variety of items. You can save on supplies, electronics, video games and just about anything you need for school.
Chegg is another great marketplace for students offering a variety of resources, including used textbooks, online tutoring and internships.
5. Shop on a sales tax holiday.
More than a dozen states offer an annual back-to-school sales tax holiday to help consumers save money. These holidays allow you to pay less or no sales tax on various items under a specific price for a limited period. They can take place at any time during the year but typically run in July or August.
For example, Connecticut residents can purchase apparel and footwear less than $100 per item with no sales tax Aug. 18-24 this year. Texas shoppers have a similar tax break for clothing and footwear but can also buy most school supplies that cost less than $100 free of sales tax Aug. 9-11.
Sales tax exemptions apply to purchases you make in a local store or online during the holiday, even for items delivered after the holiday. As with everything related to taxes, these holidays can change, so check your state’s department of revenue website for more information.
Now, there are more ways than ever for back-to-school shoppers to save money. By using one or more of these tips, comparison shopping, and taking advantage of free shipping offers, you can easily make heading back to school more affordable.