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

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.85%3.81%
15 yr fixed2.97%2.91%
5/1 ARM3.38%3.09%
30 yr refi3.85%3.81%
15 yr refi3.01%2.99%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,191.37 -195.84 -1.13%
Nasdaq 4,637.99 -43.51 -0.93%
S&P 500 2,002.16 -27.39 -1.35%
Treasuries 1.72 -0.10 -5.53%
Data as of 4:38pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 115.31 6.17 5.65%
Bank of America Corp... 15.20 -0.43 -2.75%
Yahoo! Inc 46.44 -1.55 -3.23%
Microsoft Corp 41.19 -1.47 -3.45%
General Electric Co 23.84 -0.54 -2.21%
Data as of 4:01pm ET

Sections

The Federal Reserve is very upbeat about the U.S. economy. Rate hikes could be come sooner rather than later. More

Decades of declining oil production has been reversed since Obama took office, leading to the largest increase in the nation's history. More

Facebook's earnings jumped 34%, as nearly all users are accessing the social network on smartphones. More

On demand delivery startup WunWun is expecting its order volume to double by the time they close up shop on Monday. All thanks to a blizzard. More

The IRS said it has carried out thousands of audits of offshore schemes and pursued criminal charges that have resulted in "billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions." And it won't stop there. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.