Getting the kids ready to return to school can be an expensive endeavor.
Twenty-four percent of Canadians spend between $51 and $100 on back-to-school, while around 15% spend between $101 and $150, according to a 2022 survey conducted by Caddle and the Retail Council of Canada. Over 36% of Canadians expect to spend more on back-to-school this year than they did in 2021, according to the survey.
For families already working hard to keep up with inflation, covering back-to-school expenses may require some creative budgeting. Price-matching policies can come in particularly handy this time of year, especially if the things your students need aren’t already on sale. Here are a few things to keep in mind when price matching for back-to-school.
How price matching works
Price matching is a service provided by some retailers and grocery stores. Essentially, it means the store will honour a competitor’s lower price on a product, as long as it meets the parameters of their price-matching policy.
Some retailers are so eager to win your business (and confident in their prices) that they’ll not only match a competitor’s price, but offer to beat it by a certain amount or percentage. This could add up to big savings, especially if you’re shopping for big ticket items or multiple students.
Other retailers offer generous grace periods in which to apply the price matching policy, meaning you can discover a lower price at a competitor days or even weeks after making a purchase, and still claim a refund for the difference.
Research price matching policies in advance
There are a number of big Canadian retailers that offer price matching, you just need to make sure you understand the small print as each retailer has its own rules dictating how the policy works.
Common conditions to watch for:
- Grace period: How long after the initial purchase will the store offer a price match?
- Location restrictions: Must the competitor be located within a certain geographical area to be eligible for price match?
- Online vs in-store: Does the retailer only price match items carried in-store, or will it honour online prices as well?
- Sale restrictions: Does the price-matching policy apply during holiday sales or other special promotions?
Which back-to-school retailers offer price matching?
Here are a few popular Canadian retailers and their price matching policies:
Best Buy: Will match online, in-store or print prices before you buy or within 30 days of purchase.
Bed Bath & Beyond: Will match competitor prices at checkout and up to 14 days after purchase.
Canada Computers & Electronics: Will beat a competitor’s online, in-store or print prices by 10% of the difference, at check-out or within 15 days of purchase.
Giant Tiger: Will sell you an identical, in-store item for one cent less than a local competitor.
Leon’s: Will refund the difference if you find a lower price at a competitor within 60 days of purchase.
Sport Chek: Will match competitor prices on in-store items at checkout or within 15 days of purchase.
Staples: Will price match on “almost everything” it sells, at checkout or with 30 days of purchase (14 days for electronics).
Walmart: Unfortunately Walmart’s price matching policy was discontinued in 2020.
Amazon.ca: With such an emphasis on low prices, one might assume this giant online retailer offers price matching, but alas, it does not.
Other back-to-school shopping tips
Consider buy now, pay later
Available at online and brick-and-mortar retailers alike, ‘buy now, pay later,’ or BNPL, is a short-term financing option that allows you to break a purchase into multiple smaller payments — often without paying an interest or fees. BNPL can be useful for pricier back-to-school purchases, such as a new laptop or dorm room furniture, but should be approached with caution. BNPL services make it easy to overextend yourself if used for multiple purchases at once, and if the allotted payments aren’t made on time and in full, costly fees may apply.
Try money-saving mobile apps
There are a few different options for apps that can help you save on back-to-school shopping. Some, like Honey, work as price trackers and automatically apply promotional codes for added savings. Others, like Rakuten or Swagbucks, are cash-back apps that reward you for shopping with certain retailers.
Seek provincial assistance programs
Some Canadian provinces are stepping in to help relieve parents of the financial stress associated with back-to-school shopping. For the 2022-2023 school year, Prince Edward Island is providing public school students from K-9 with free school supplies, for example. In British Columbia, certain items, like children-sized clothing and school supplies, may be tax exempt.
Use the right credit card
Making back-to-school purchases with a cash-back or rewards credit card is one way to make your money go further. Certain cards may have accelerated earn rates for shopping with specific retailers, or certain categories of purchases, like groceries.
Shop via Aeroplan
If you’re a member of the Aeroplan loyalty program, keep an eye on back-to-school points promotions when shopping online. Many Aeroplan partner retailers will offer limited-time increase in points. For example, Apple offered 7 points per $1 spent in early August. So, a 14” MacBook Pro purchased for $2499 would earn 17,493 Aeroplan points, which may be enough for a flight in North America. There are dozens of great Aeroplan retailers with similar deals, you just need to keep abreast of the latest offers to take advantage.