As the first day of school rapidly approaches, stores are filled with back-to-school promotions.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) has some important shopping tips to help you and your family save money and make smarter financial decisions this school year. Learn how to save and teach your children to make smarter financial decisions with our shopping tips, available in multiple languages.
“Back-to-school shopping is one of the biggest shopping events of the year, and if your kids are anything like mine, it is their favorite part of going back to school,” said DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga. “With our quick tips, parents can make smarter financial decisions and protect their hard-earned money while teaching their children how to budget.”
- Make a list and create a budget. Help kids make smart decisions when choosing which supplies to buy. Get the teacher’s supply list and then educate children about how to create a budget based on how much they have to spend and what they need to get. Whether you shop online or in-store, stick to the list and the budget.
- Compare prices. Use websites, smartphone apps, and social media to research products, compare prices, and find sales and discounts. Avoid entering your personal information to get a coupon—some scammers use the promise of discounts to steal your information.
- Look for prices. Stores must post prices either on the item or on a sign where the item is displayed. It is illegal to charge more than that posted price. Extra credit: Be sure to read our shopping tips for electronics and furniture.
- What You Need to Know about Buy Now, Pay Later Loans. You’ve probably seen “Buy Now, Pay Later” or “Pay in 4” payment options in stores or online, but do you know what they mean? They are short-term loans that let you pay for something in small installments and avoid fees or interest if you pay in full and on time. Unfortunately, it can be easy to spend more than you intend.
- Ask for a receipt and save it. In New York City, you are entitled to a receipt automatically for purchases of more than $20 and upon request for purchases between $5 and $20. Protect your personal information—by law, a customer’s receipt must not show the credit card’s expiration date or more than its last five digits.
- Check store payment and refund policies. It is illegal for stores to not accept cash payments and charge consumers who pay in cash a higher price for the same retail item than consumers who pay by credit card or other cashless method. Stores must also post a sign detailing their refund policy. If they don’t, you are entitled to a refund within 30 days of your purchase.
- Protect yourself when shopping online. If you are planning to do your back-to-school shopping online, make sure to shop on secure websites only. Use familiar websites or research and read reviews of new websites and check that links start with https (not just http; the “s” stands for secure) or have a padlock icon. Avoid typing your personal information when using unsecured Wi-Fi. Also, don’t click on links in unsolicited emails or on social media sites—type the address directly into your browser. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information on how to be safe, secure, and responsible online.
- Teach your children about credit and how it works. Explain that credit cards are not “free money,” and that what you pay for with the card must be paid back with interest. Teach them about paying minimum balances versus the full balance and about the consequences of using a credit card irresponsibly.
- Get free financial counseling. Visit nyc.gov/TalkMoney to schedule an appointment with a professional financial counselor from the City’s Financial Empowerment Centers. Work with your counselor to manage sudden changes to your budget or income and set up a spending plan; open a bank account to set up direct deposit; contact creditors; and more. Financial counseling is free and confidential, regardless of income or immigration status, and offered in multiple languages.
- Know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to student loans. Whether you are considering student loans for yourself or your child or already have student loan debt, be sure to read DCWP’s tips and resources at nyc.gov/StudentLoans.
For more consumer tips, including tips when using a credit card, taking out a car loan, and learning about credit repair scams, visit nyc.gov/dcwp and join the conversation on Twitter by following @HelloDCWP and using the hashtag #BacktoSchoolNYC.
The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP)—formerly the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)—protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 45,000 businesses in more than 40 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities.
For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp.
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