Parents and students expect to spend more than ever on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. If you — or a student in your life — is shopping for books, clothes, school supplies, backpacks or other items, be sure to keep these tips in mind. Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana answers questions on how to shop smart for back-to-school or back-to-college purchases:

Q: What should I do before it start shopping?

A: Start your back-to-school shopping by creating a list. Jot down everything you need and stick to the list! Impulse buying can increase your overall total in a hurry. Then, shop your home before heading to the store. You may already have some of the items from last year. Why purchase the same thing twice?

Q: Should I research big ticket items?

A: Before purchasing that expensive laptop, tablet or dorm refrigerator, be sure to do your research. Research the brands, warranty, customer reviews and the prices at various stores to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Also, look up the retailer on BBB.org.

Q: Can I ask for student discounts?

A: Many stores and software companies offer discounts to students that have either an .edu email address or a student ID. Even if you don’t see a discount advertised at the store, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Q: Is shopping in bulk a good idea?

A: Some teachers ask parents to buy bulk items for the entire classroom to use throughout the year. Talk with other parents about what they’re getting and see if you can all split the cost.

Q: Why should I know the return policies?

A: Kids can be fickle. They can love a new shirt yesterday but hate it today. Ask about return policies before making your purchase. Be sure to save your receipts just in case you have to return the item later.

Q: How do I shop safely online?

A: When shopping from an online website the first step is to make sure the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The “s” in “https” stands for secure, that way you know your information is being protected.

Look up the website’s privacy policy and contact information. If it is not clearly listed, or they only have an email as the point of contact, take that as a big red flag and shop elsewhere.

Do your research. An unknown website may offer a similar product at a lower price. The lowest price isn’t always the best route. Check for user reviews and badges for consumer protection agencies.

Be sure to use your credit card instead of your debit card, as credit cards not only provide additional protection, but it’s also easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.

Be extremely wary of any website or store that asks for your child’s personal information in order to access special deals.

If you’re buying supplies through a website like Craigslist, make sure you don’t wire money to someone you’ve not met. Use PayPal if possible, but if you are using cash, make sure you meet in a public place and bring a friend.

If you use Facebook you know banner ads are all over the place and many ads are even catered to what you like. Some of them, however, are just click bait ads to drive you to a different website where you could potentially be asked to input personal information. Take note of the ad and go to the store’s website directly.

Do you have a question you would like to submit for this column? Please send to info@acadiana.bbb.org subject line: BBB/DailyIberian.

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