10 Tips for Back-to-School Savings
Buying a few pencils and notebooks for your school-age children won't put a big dent in your budget. But throw in backpacks, electronics, new clothes and more, and the cost of a back-to-school shopping trip quickly adds up. In fact, the average family is expected to spend $606 this year on these items, according to the National Retail Federation. That amount tops last year's -- $549 -- even though many Americans say they're struggling financially.
There are ways to keep back-to-school costs from spiraling out of control. The tips below will help.
1. Take inventory of what your kids have. Don't assume that your kids have outgrown all their clothes and need a new wardrobe. Take the time to make them try on what is in their closet and drawers to figure out which clothing items they really need. Then plan on buying items that can easily be mixed and matched.
2. Set a budget. Let your children know how much they can spend so they buy only what they need. You can motivate them to keep spending under control by telling them they can keep any cash they don't spend.
3. Share the cost. Ask children who receive an allowance or who have money from a summer job to chip in -- especially if they want to buy more than your budget allows. If kids are expected to help pay for back-to-school items, they'll be more price-conscious.
4. Time your shopping right. Retailers offer some of the year's lowest prices on pens, pencils and notebooks in August. For clothing, you'll find sales on Labor Day weekend.
5.Take advantage of sales-tax holidays. Sixteen states exempt various back-to-school items from sales taxes on certain days. If you're buying big-ticket items, you might consider crossing state lines to get the tax break if your state doesn't have a tax holiday. See our guide to find out if and when your state has a tax holiday.
6. Check for student discounts. Some stores, such as Apple, offer discounts just for students. All it asks for is your name and school you are attending.
7. Sign up for e-mail or Twitter alerts from back-to-school retailers to know when their items go on sale.
8. Buy used. Textbooks are cheaper used (and even cheaper when you rent them). See How to Cut Your Textbook Costs in Half -- or More for Web sites that will help you get a deal on books. Also consider buying items such as computers refurbished rather than new.
9. Shop online. You may be more tempted to overspend when shopping in a mall, where you're surrounded by so many options, tempting displays and impulse buys in the checkout aisle. If you shop online, you can give your kids a choice of just a couple of retailers that have coupon codes-- which you can get from sites such as RetailMeNot, CouponShack.com and Coupon Sherpa -- and free-shipping offers (see FreeShipping.org).
10. Buy items in bulk to take advantage of larger discount coupons that give bigger savings for spending more. Places such as Staples offer bulk discounts and free shipping.