Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Back-to-school savings

By Amelia Ross, editor


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It's hard to say "no" to opening your wallet for school supplies. And although the average American family is planning to spend $606 on back-to-school supplies and clothes this year, according to the National Retail Federation, there are ways you can be smart about shopping for the start of the school year and cut your costs.

Shop from your home

You don't have to give in to the urge to buy new school clothes. You may not need that first day of school new outfit. Check your closets and take an inventory of your child's clothes and shoes.

How many sweatshirts do you need this school year? Have your kids really outgrown their jeans, shoes and sneakers? Have them try on clothing. Donate what doesn't fit to charity or host a clothing swap. Decide who to invite to the swap based on the ages, sizes and gender of their children.

Throw a search party for school supplies in your home and have your kids look for what they need. Buy what you are missing from a dollar store. Buy in bulk and avoid the last-minute drive for needed supplies.

Remember to watch for advertised rebates during the back-to-school season. Many national drug store chains offer school supply sales that in addition to rebates could result in free items.

And read the teacher's list with a careful eye. Have all of the essentials backpacks, lunch boxes, notebooks, pencils and glue but delay buying specialty items like calculators, as some teachers change their requirements.

Tax credit for day care

If you need day care for a child, age 12 or younger, so you can work or look for work, you can claim a federal income tax credit.

"Regardless of your family's income, you're entitled to a tax credit for qualified dependent care expenses. This credit can be up to 35% of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your income," said tax expert Barbara Weltman.

Lower income workers can get a 35% credit, which phases downward to 20% for those with adjusted gross income of more than $43,000.

Remember to keep your child care receipts and check with your accountant. To top of page

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.65%3.67%
15 yr fixed2.78%2.78%
5/1 ARM2.99%2.96%
30 yr refi3.69%3.71%
15 yr refi2.81%2.81%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,690.83 -139.93 -0.78%
Nasdaq 4,753.16 -52.13 -1.08%
S&P 500 2,054.65 -21.16 -1.02%
Treasuries 1.84 -0.00 -0.16%
Data as of 2:19pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 14.51 -0.28 -1.89%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 13.90 1.23 9.76%
Apple Inc 93.41 -1.42 -1.50%
Ford Motor Co 13.60 -0.48 -3.44%
Microsoft Corp 50.05 0.15 0.30%
Data as of 2:04pm ET

Sections

Oil refining giant Phillips 66 reported a big drop in earnings that disappointed Wall Street. The stock is one of the largest holdings of Berkshire Hathaway. More

The Dow is down 300 points over the past two days, leaving the index on track for its worst week since early February. Blame fumbled earnings reports from the likes of Apple and Google as well as concerns about the Bank of Japan. More

WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey talks to CNNMoney's Laurie Segall about his design process for WeWork buildings. More

Visa says new software will allow consumers to check out with chip cards as fast as swiping a card with magnetic strip. More