GRAB THE DEALS WHILE THEY'RE HOT
Frugal shoppers take note: Back-to-school ads and deals may be aimed at parents and students, but anyone can take advantage of the discounts. Here's why you should be hitting the back-to-school sales even if you don't have school-age children at home.
Related: 10 Ways to Save on School Supplies
EVERYTHING IS ON SALE
Well, nearly everything. Often so-called "back-to-school sales" also include items that have nothing to do with school, because retailers know that parents are out in full force marking items off that back-to-school list and are much more likely to be tempted by sales on other items, too.
COMPARISON SHOPPING AT ITS FINEST
Try not to let a sale tempt you into an impulse buy, however. It's always best to take some time to comparison shop -- especially for big-ticket items. On the upside, comparison shopping is fun when you're comparing sale items.
Shoppers who find a lower price elsewhere can save themselves some time and money by price matching. Many chains match competitors' sale prices, and some even go beyond matching during the back-to-school shopping season. Staples, for example, offers to match sales prices on comparable merchandise and take an additional 10 percent off should customers find a lower price. The deal is good through Sept. 17.
IT MAY PAY TO WAIT
For parents seeking specific items, the prime time to shop is July and August. If you don't need something in time for the start of school, however, you can be flexible and hold out for better deals on what's left in stock after class is back in session.
As an added bonus, look for many retailers to throw in freebies with back-to-school purchases. Last year Old Navy gave out free backpacks with $50 purchases. Put them away in the gift closet for a present in a pinch. But be sure to read any fine print to avoid disappointment, as some freebies are reserved only for students.
Many states offer sales tax holidays to post publishing 8/1 in July or August in concert with the back-to-school shopping season, an additional way for any consumer to save money. Depending on the sales tax rate, consumers could pocket additional savings of 4 or 5 percent, or more. Some states limit tax-free deals to items typically bought for back-to-school, such as clothing or school supplies. Others are less restrictive, so be sure to check individual states' exclusions and restrictions.
Tech items have become a must-have for school, and many retailers offer discounts on all kinds of electronic gadgetry. Shoppers in need of a new laptop or tablet, for example, may find this an ideal time to snag a great deal. Computers are included in few states' tax holidays, as well.
CLOTHING FOR ALL AGES
Clothing is a hot commodity during back-to-school season. And in July and August, sales on apparel -- regardless of age or size -- are as common as heat waves. Even parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers can save on fall wardrobes for kids.
DENIM AND SHOES
Now is a great time to buy denim for all ages, with retailers such as Old Navy and Gap rolling out back-to-school sales. In past years, Target has run a "buy one, get one 50 percent off" sale on denim and shoes for men and women as well as children.
Naturally, paper, folders, notebooks, dividers, writing utensils, ink, and the like are promoted in back-to-school sales. Shoppers with a home office or a small business can take advantage of low prices and stock up now.
In this electronic age, people who still use paper day planners can often find them lumped in with the back-to-school sales. The calendar might start with July or August instead of January, but the planner doesn't have to be used for school.
Elementary and high school kids aren't the only ones heading to school in the fall. College campuses welcome freshmen in the fall as well. This is a prime time to score office furniture, such as desks, chairs, lamps, and the like, that are marketed for dorm rooms and college houses.
Back-to-school shopping season is a good time to buy storage supplies and get organized. Shoppers can take advantage on deals for all the things college-bound freshmen need for settling into a dorm, such as filing cabinets, plastic storage bins, and closet organizers.
If you have a spare room or a bathroom that could use a face-lift, it's a good time to outfit those rooms with fresh linens. Bedspreads, sheets, towels -- anything college-bound kids need is discounted in August.
Back-to-school season is also a good time to stock up on household staples such as toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, laundry detergent, and more, as college students get equipped to live on their own.