Back-to-school shopping season has arrived—that surefire sign (sniff!) that all those carefree summer barbecues and swim parties are winding down and cooler weather is right around the corner.
If that sinks your spirits, here's something to cheer about. A slew of back-to-school apps make buying school gear easy and affordable, eliminating the rush and frenzy of driving from store to store or clicking links online, desperate to find the supplies and gear your kids need.
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Get started with a free financial assessment.
These eight free (or close to it!) apps get an A+ in our book, whether you’re shopping for kindergartners, tweens or high schoolers. Follow our savings tips and you can get deals on everything from notebooks to track pants to backpacks to laptops at many of your favorite shopping destinations.
Cartwheel by Target (free; iPhone and Android)
Cartwheel is the big-box retailer’s money-saving app. As the first day of school draws closer, a "back to school" category typically appears where you'll find clothing, gear and supplies conveniently grouped together. Nab savings from 5% to 50% and then pair those deals with other Target offers or manufacturers’ coupons.
Flok (free; Apple iOS and Android)
This savvy app makes it simple to find out which stores near you have loyalty programs. Approximately 100,000 retailers participate, listing their loyalty perks (some give a gift just for joining) and updating their specials in real time. Check in when you visit the stores to earn even more points toward discounts and other benefits. The savings you score here can make it easier to afford pricey things older kids may want, like tablets or laptops and more.
Ibotta (free; Apple iOS and Android)
This genius app has partnered with more than 300 retailers to offer rebates on clothes, food (think of all those school lunches and snacks) and gear of all kinds. Go on the app, unlock the rebates you want, then buy those items at the participating stores. Verify your purchase and your rebate will be deposited in your Ibotta account (which you can link to your PayPal account), usually within 24 hours. You can also exchange your earnings for gift cards from Starbucks, iTunes and more.
Retale (free; Apple iOS and Android)
Type in your ZIP code and this app will show you the latest weekly circular for dozens of retailers in your area, from JCPenney and Macy’s to CVS and Toys"R"Us. Search by product and the app tells you which store has the sweetest deal. Are the sneakers your kid wants to wear on the first day too pricey? Set up a notification list and the app will send you an alert as soon as they (or any other item) get marked down.
School Supply List (99 cents; iPhone)
This app lets you compile a list of everything your child needs from among 150 items, or you can add your own to customize. You can make a note by each item about which store is offering the best deal on it, so you won't have to keep shuffling between circulars to remember. And if you're in a store that offers price matching, you'll be able to easily remember which circular has the rock-bottom price you need to show a clerk.
SnipSnap (free; Apple iOS and Android)
Tired of clipping (and losing) all your back-to-school coupons? The app makes keeping them all in one place a snap—literally. Take photos of coupons, and SnipSnap automatically converts them into a digital image that cashiers can scan right from your device’s screen. It also wrangles exclusive discounts from partnering retailers and lets you see and use coupons that friends have uploaded to the app.
Staples (free; iPhone and Android)
Check out this app’s "Less List for School," which offers some really great prices on essentials (think composition notebooks for 50 cents, down from $3.29, and index cards, normally $1.49, for 48 cents). This app is a time-saver in addition to a money-saver—you can pick what you want, buy it through the app, then arrange to retrieve your purchases from the store when it’s convenient for you.
Walmart Savings Catcher (free; Apple iOS and Android)
On your next trip to this big-box giant, don’t buy a thing without the store app at the ready. You can set it so it makes you the first to know about sales (get the cool backpacks and trendy gel pens before they run out!) and compile a back-to-school wish list for your child in case a doting grandparent or aunt wants to pitch in. And thanks to the “savings catcher” feature, if Walmart finds a lower advertised price on something you recently bought, you’ll get the difference refunded on an eGift card.
LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies. LearnVest, Inc., is wholly owned by NM Planning, LLC, a subsidiary of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.