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Back-to-School Shopping Tips

Back-to-school shopping is here already and in full force. Retailers want you and they want you bad. Weakened by sluggish sales due to the bad economy, retailers are pinning their hopes high on back-to-school shopping. But this time they have to compete with higher grocery and gas prices. It’s going to be a tough battle not only for retailers but for parents as well.

What can parents do to spend money shopping for back-to-school items while keeping a balanced budget? Here are a few tips:

1. Make a list and check it twice: Create a list based on your needs. School supplies lists provide a great starting point. Creating a list of needs will also help you identify what you already have that meets those needs. So, before you head out with your list of needed items shop at home first. Check your home for supplies such as binders, calculators, or staplers that can be reused year after year.

Now that you have shopped at home for some of these items, take a hard look at your list and prioritize this list. Identify items that “must” be purchased and put them at the top of your list.

2. Remember that time is on your side: you don’t need to buy everything on your list before school starts. This is particularly the case with clothes shopping. You don’t need to buy your child a whole new wardrobe before s/he starts school in September. Take stock of what your child already has in the closet and see how much longer s/he can wear it. Just as retailers are rolling out back-to-school promotions early, they will probably start discounting them early as well. My biggest way for saving on clothes shopping is by buying off season. You don’t have to renew your kids clothes all at once and/or just before he is ready for the next size up. By buying off season you can get clothes deeply discounted.

3. Shift some of the shopping responsibility on to your child. This is a great time to teach your children about the value of money, budgeting, and prioritization. Not only keep him/her involved in the process but make him/her part of it. There are a couple of ways you can do this: first, encourage him/her to start saving NOW for any extra items s/he may really want but are not part of your “needs list.” Or consider giving him/her an allowance of money to buy those extra items. This will encourage him to rank his/her wants and make him/her responsible for his choices.

According to this article in the New York Times, the average American household will spend an average of $484 on school supplies, new clothing, and electronics. That is up 8 percent from last year. Have you started looking into how much back-to-school shopping you have to do? How will you deal with increasing costs and decreasing discretionary spending?

Originally published on Common Sense with Money

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