Even if you prefer to do your shopping in person, "going online to find the savings to shop offline is still a smart thing to do," Wilson says. Use retailers' websites and bargain sites to comparison-shop and scout out discounts that you can use to help maximize your time and budget at retail stores.
4. Look for coupons. Be on the lookout for student-focused deals that only pop up during the back-to-school season, Wilson says. Many technology retailers – including Best Buy and Apple – offer back-to-school deals on computers that only work with a ".edu" student email address, Wilson says.
Otherwise, take the time to browse through weekly circulars and search online coupon sites, Wilson adds. "The main thing that I wish that people would realize is how prevalent coupons and offers are for really every store," Wilson says. "On any given day, I would say 9 out of 10 stores have some kind of discount that you can either print out and take to the store or that you can use online."
All of those discounts can add up, Wilson says. "In the case of retail shopping this isn't 'get 25 cents off a can of green beans' and that kind of thing, it's 'get $10 off at Macy's' or '20 percent off at Bed Bath & Beyond,' and on and on and on," he says. "If you're cutting 20 percent off or 20 bucks off each of a half-dozen big purchases you're making, you're going to end up in pretty good shape."
5. Look for preowned goods. When shopping for college students, don't be afraid to look for second-hand or gently used items, Wilson says. Everything from textbooks to laptops to furniture can be bought second-hand or rented, often at a lower cost than might be found at the campus bookstore.
"We're certainly seeing more preowned options in stores and marketplaces, and there's increasingly coupons and offers to be had there as well," Wilson says. "Believe it or not, there's actually coupons for a lot of these sites. On Chegg[.com], Bookrenter.com and places like that, even though they're already 80 percent off the new price, there's also often coupon codes on top of that, which most people aren't aware of."
When parents are shelling out hundreds of dollars for back-to-school goods, those discounts come in handy.