Back-to-school savings

By Jennie Bragg, producer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It's that time of year again ... back to school time!

And for anyone with kids, that means shopping for everything from new clothes to notebooks to lunch boxes.

Parents will spend an average of $606 to send just one child back to school this year, according to the National Retail Federation, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. Back-to-school savings are easy to come by if you follow a few simple rules.

Before you head to the store, shop the closets in your home.

This will allow you to figure out exactly what you need. You can build a shopping list, and you won't overspend when you get to the store.

"For the kids this is a good lesson between needs and wants. They may want a whole new wardrobe, but they may not need a whole new wardrobe. And having them make those decisions is helpful to them and also to you," advises Janet Bodnar, author of 'Raising Money Smart Kids'."

And consider a clothing allowance.

When kids have to chip in to pay for those new jeans or that expensive backpack, last year's duds will start looking pretty good again.

To every season

Everyone wants the best deals, so time your shopping right.

Most stores offer deals on school supplies throughout the month of August, so shop early if your child's school provides a list of essentials before the start of school. Labor Day and the period right afterward is the time to shop for clothing, as many retailers have big sales during this time.

And if your child can wait until a week or two after school starts for supplies, many stores deeply discount items after the start of the school year.

If you are willing to cross state lines for big ticket items like a computer or an expensive calculator, Bodnar says, "there are 16 states that actually have sales tax holidays on back-to-school equipment, anything from school supplies to computers to clothes."

Contact your state's department of revenue to find out if your state has a sales tax holiday coming up and what purchases qualify.

And get tech savvy to save some money this back to school season.

Most chain retailers will send out blast e-mails or Twitter alerts when they are having sales, so get on as many lists as possible and get in the know.

If you are planning to do your shopping online, price compare! Sites like dealio.com and pronto.com compare prices of tens of millions of products from thousands so you can easily narrow down your online search and snag the best deals. For free shipping codes from online retailers, check out freeshipping.org.

Talkback: How much do you spend per child at the start of the school year? To top of page

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