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8 Money-Saving Back to School Shopping Tips

Summer is winding down and store shelves are stocked with school supplies. Back to school shopping is the second largest annual consumer event, just behind the holiday shopping season. Budgeting for back to school shopping can be an overwhelming task: the National Retail Federation reports the average family plans to spend $606.40 this year on back to school clothing and supplies, up from $548.72 in 2010.

Outfitting your child with everything they need for the new school season doesn’t have to break the bank though. Here are eight tips that will help soften the dent in your wallet:

1. Make a list and prioritize it.

Determine your child’s immediate needs: Maybe it’s a new backpack, long sleeve shirts, or tennis shoes. Spend on those items first, and plan on budgeting for the rest later in the year. Chances are that your child doesn’t need a winter coat or boots for the first few weeks, if not months, of school. It’s tempting to get your winter shopping out of the way while the racks are full of cute cold-weather gear, but you are more likely to get a bargain on that adorable down jacket when it goes on sale before the holidays.

2. Take advantage of the fall sales.

In preparation for new holiday merchandise, stores start to mark down back-to-school items as early as late September. Do you have your eyes on an adorable winter coat from Gap Kids, but can’t stomach the sticker price? Websites like Shop It To Me send email alerts when your favorite brands go on sale. It’s a great way to score great deals on clothing for the entire family before they fly off the shelves.

3. Shop online.

Not only will you be able to efficiently compare prices, but you are more likely to stick to your shopping list. It’s too easy to indulge in impulse buying in the stores. Be sure to check for online coupons before you click the “Checkout” button. Retailmenot.com makes it simple to search for any store’s current promotion codes.

4. Leave the kids at home.

I know it’s tempting to bring your child back to school shopping, as it feels like a right of passage, but it’s easy to get sidetracked by all the pretty, shiny things lining the back to school shelves. If you want to include your little one in the back to school fun, I suggest doing the bulk of the shopping beforehand, and then making a special trip with your child for a few fun extras. Set a budget and make sure you and you both stick to it.

5. Get crafty- literally.

Has your house been hit with the Bieber Fever? Or maybe your little guy is obsessed with Transformers. Character-branded back to school items cost as much as 30 percent more than generic brands. This is a great opportunity for your child to host a DIY party and invite her friends over to decorate their notebooks and pencil boxes with images found online or cut out of magazines. Not only will it save you big time on branded school supplies, but it’s a great way for old friends to reconnect after the long summer break.

6. Shop your junk drawers.

It’s likely your junk drawers are full of common back to school items like highlighters, pencils, pens, calculators, and notebook paper. While it’s fun to have brand-new school supplies in the beginning of the school year, the savings you will see from shopping your own home are significant and having a decluttered drawer is a reward in itself.

7. Hold off on shopping for trendy items.

It’s hard to predict what the hot trend of the back to school season will be until school actually starts. Kids have a high influence over one another and they tend to like to fit in. As hard as it may be, waiting a week or two into the school year to see which trends stick is a smart way to make sure that the investment on a hot new item is a good one.

8. Look for stores that offer a student discount.

This strategy is particularly useful with big ticket items like electronics and computers. Once your child has obtained their student ID you can take advantage of student discounts from retailers such as Verizon, The HP Academy Store and Apple. Hmmmm, now that I think of it, Mama could use a new laptop….

How are you saving money on your back to school shopping?

Morgan is a freelance writer and blogger living in Southern California with her husband, two daughters, and flock of backyard chickens. You can read more of her at The Little Hen House.