Back-to-school shopping tips |

Back-to-school shopping tips

Shelley Polansky
Better Business Bureau

Getting your kiddos ready to start or go back to school can be both fun and financially challenging. This year parents are expected to spend $634 on kindergarten-through-12th-grade school-related items, according to the National Retail Federation.

While this number is down slightly from 2013, when families spent $688, what is increasing is the number of people doing their homework by comparison shopping online, 37 percent compared with 32 percent in 2012.

Before you get caught up in the back-to-school shopping frenzy (second only to the holidays in terms of money spent), the Better Business Bureau advises the following:

Make a budget: Set a dollar amount that you comfortably can afford for both school supplies and school apparel. Do a quick price search online for items on your list, and add them up to ensure you stay within your budget. Consider clipping coupons and making notes of discount codes and cash-back or rebate programs.

Make a shopping list: Most stores selling school supplies have lists from nearby schools available for customers. You also can find supply lists on school websites. Before heading out to stores, make a list of what you already have, such as unused or gently used notebooks, pencils, markers, etc. For some items, such as backpacks that get lots of rough-and-tumble use, consider investing in those that will last multiple years.

Set up email alerts at your favorite stores: Sign up to receive emails announcing sales, specials and member-only discounts from your favorite online retailers (many of which also have brick-and-mortar stores). In addition, many websites have an informed community of savvy shoppers on their blogs or forums who share deals, exclusive coupons, rebates and insider information on where and when to find the best prices, popular models and links to helpful resources.

Take advantage of discounts: Many stores offer student and teacher discounts on hot items such as laptops and uniforms.

For more consumer tips and information, visit

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