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Tips for Back-to-School Saving

Columnist Alyssa Karl provides advice for cash-strapped families doing last-minute school shopping.

Parents will spend more than $600 to get one child ready for school this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. How much will you spend? Here are a few simple tips to lower your back-to-school expenses.

  • Shop End-of-Summer Sales
    Pick up inexpensive short-sleeve shirts that kids can wear into the fall. While you’re there, plan ahead and pick up items for next year too.

  • Stick to the List
    It sounds simple enough, but stick to the list from your school. The back-to-school section of stores these days looks like a toy department full of colorful and trendy items. However, these items are more expensive and if it’s not on the list chances are it will remain unused and end up being a waste of money.

  • Lunch Plan
    Research the cost of your school lunch plan and consider packing a lunch if you can do it cheaper. If you choose to pack a lunch, watch weekly deals at your local grocery store and plan your lunches around specials. Write a weekly menu and stick to it—when you’re in control of what your child eats you’ll save money and avoid last minute shopping, which can be costly.
  • Check the Closet
    Go through your child’s closet and take inventory of what they truly need, avoiding the temptation to buy three new pairs of jeans when they actually only need only one. While you’re at it, now’s a great time to clean out clothes that don’t fit and sell them on sites like www.craigslist.com or to a consignment store—then use the money you’ve made to help pay for your back-to-school list.

  • Shop Around. These days, many retailers you may not normally associate with back-to-school shopping want in on the back-to-school shopping season and often offer great deals. Places such as craft stores, dollar stores and supermarkets may surprise you with their back-to-school discounts.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to break the budget. With a little preparation, you too can avoid a very expensive beginning to the school year.

Editor's Note: Alyssa Karl is the author of a twice-monthly column on Patch. E-mail her at akarl@heartlandcu.com.

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