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Back to school savings guide
5 Tips: How to get deals on books, computers and more.
August 8, 2005: 3:20 PM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist
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CNN's Gerri Willis shares five tips on how to save for the news school year. (August 8)
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The back-to-school spending season is in full gear. This year families will spend almost $14 billion according to the National Retail Federation.

If you're worried that the costs of starting the new school year will leave you in the red, relax. In today's 5 tips we're going to give you ideas on how to save some green.

1. Escape the taxes

Many states are offering residents a temporary sales-tax holiday on back-to-school gear. Most states put a ceiling on the price of eligible merchandise -- typically, $100 to $300 per clothing item sold and $1,500 to $4,000 for computer equipment.

For example, if you live in Connecticut, you can buy $300 worth of clothing tax free from Aug. 21-27. Other states with upcoming tax holidays include Massachusetts and New York. For dates and restrictions, see "Taxes take a holiday."

2. Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk at a discount warehouse like Costco or Sams' Club is a great way to save a lot of cash, especially if you have a large family. This can save you up to 15 percent, said Paul Richard of the Institute for Consumer Financial Information.

One way to make bulk purchasing work for you is to go to your school's Parent Teacher Association and see if it's possible to pool buying needs and resources.

3.Pay less for text

We all know that college textbook bills can cost hundreds of dollars. But you don't have to carry that kind of financial burden.

Get textbooks at eBay's at On this site, you can get textbooks from business and economics to philosophy for about $40.

Take a look at this book "Freakonomics." At Borders you can get this book for $25.95. At Barnes & Noble and, that price is $15.57. On eBay's, it's going for $9.05, a savings of almost $17!

If you have a large reading list, you can get classic paperbacks for as little as $0.75 cents. And don't rule out your local library.

4. Get plugged into deals

Today you can find electronics almost anywhere. From discounters to local merchants, it may be hard to find exactly what you're looking for.

Consumer Reports says retailers, especially price clubs, do not have an adequate staff to answer questions. So get plugged in.

PC's editor Lance Ulanoff recommends you buy your electronics online. You can save money on the bottom line, shipping and taxes.

The best thing to do is to comparison shop on electronic sites like or, he said. Retailers like Best Buy may also offer less expensive items on their Web site rather than in their stores.

If you're not in need of the latest model or the fastest chip, you can go to the manufacturer's Web site and search for refurbished products, like computers. These computers may be last year's model, but the company still vouches for its quality.

5. Get connected for less

Do you like the idea of staying in touch with your child, but feel a little queasy about giving them an expensive cell phone? Now, more companies are catering to the kiddie mobile phone market.

Beginning this month, parents will be able to buy Leapfrog enterprises new child-friendly phone called TicTalk. Parents control the phone numbers online at, where they can also set total minutes. Parents prepay $15 for an hour of time in addition to the $10 activation fee and the $99 cost of the phone.

Firefly is also offering a $99 child-friendly phone. It comes with 30 minutes of airtime on Cingular's network, and parents can buy additional time online at or at Target for 25 cents a minute, in blocks ranging from $10 to $50.

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to  Top of page


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