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How to save money when buying back-to-school supplies

Posted at 2:24 PM, Jul 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 08:43:37-04

According to the National Retail Federation, parents with kids in children grades K-12 are expected to spend an average of $630.36 this year. That is down from $669.28 last year. Total projected spending for this year is $68 billion (including money spent on college students).

Check out this supplies price list for a general idea of how much school supplies will cost. Prices do vary by region.

Here are some tips on back-to-school shopping:

1. Don't shop when you are stressed. Back-to-school shopping for clothes or supplies can be stressful and research shows that people spend more money when they are stressed. Try to avoid things that cause stress such as hunger, fatigues, crowds, time constraints, and argumentative kids. Discuss with your kids what you will be buying before you go to a store.

2. Know exactly what you need. Find out from your child's school what they will need and make a list on a piece or paper or put it in your phone. Make a list and stick to it.

Related: Print-and-go school supplies checklist

3. Hold off on buying trendier items. Your child may think they want a certain backpack or lunch box or a particular design on a folder. But once they start school, they often change their minds after they see what their friends have. In some cases, a child may refuse to use the previously purchased item, which would result in wasted money.

4. Look for deals before heading to the store. Check out special offers on store websites. Look at circulars included in your local newspaper. Follow the Twitter accounts of local retailers. Many of them will send coupon links to loyal followers and tweet out advance notice of sales.

Click here for sales circulars from major retailers

5. Shop at garage sales or thrift stores. You can find great deals on back-to-school supplies like clothes, backpacks, shoes and school supplies at garage sales and thrift stores. Some thrift stores even have special back-to-school sections or have special back-to-school sales.

6. Buy school supplies in bulk. Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper over the long run and that applies to school supplies as well. If you can't buy in bulk right now, wait until school supplies such as pens, crayons and glue go on sale in late summer and buy it then for next year. If you are friends with another parent, ask if they would be interesting in putting your shopping money together in order to take advantage of bulk prices.

7. Always wait to by non-essential such as calculators, Kleenex, protractos and science project supplies. School supplies usually go on clearance in early September. Wait until then to buy the non-essentials.

8. Think about hosting a back-to-school clothing swap. If you have a fairly large circle of friends who have children who are within a few years of each other, consider hosting a swap of clothes and other stuff like lunch boxes and backpacks.

9. If you happen to be traveling and are visiting a state that is offering a state sales tax holidays for back-to-school items, you may want to do a little shopping before coming home. Click here for a list of states offering this special tax break.

10. Don't forget about your local grocery store. Many grocery stores set up special back-to-school sections filled with school supplies. These items are usually offered at very competitive prices.

The following is a list of back-to-school sections on major retailers' websites:
Big Lots
Discount School Supply
Dollar Tree
Family Dollar
JC Penney
Office Depot
Oriental Trading Co.