6 Tips to Stretch Your Back-to-School Cash

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Parents will spend more this year than last on their schoolchildren. But will they spend it wisely? Here are some lessons that will help you score you an A+ in smart spending.

Welcome to the end of August – the second-most beautiful time of the year, at least for retailers. After Christmas, back-to-school season is when they rack up their biggest sales figures.

But just like Christmas, if you don’t shop smart, you could end up paying too much or buying stuff that’ll end up in the back of a closet or the bottom of a drawer.

As I mentioned in the video above, parents will spend more than $55 billion this month on back-to-school purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. But the NRF also reports that parents will be spending more this year than last – an average of $606 on clothes, shoes, supplies, and electronics compared to $549 last year.

The biggest chunk will be spent on clothes ($225), followed by electronics like laptops ($182) or other electronic school needs, shoes ($103), and school supplies ($96).

Here are six tips for stretching your back-to-school dollars…

1. Clothes

Take stock of the closet. Just because it’s a new school year doesn’t mean every stitch of clothing must be new, too. Don’t assume your kids have outgrown their old clothes, and when you shop, look for items that can mix and match with what they already have. Also remember that the best deals on clothing often happen during Labor Day Weekend. Have a hand-me-down party with friends and do some swapping. And before you hit the malls, check used clothing stores like consignment shops and charity stores. For more on clothes savings, see our story 18 Tips to Dress for Less.

2. Electronics

You can score great deals on computer-related items right now. Tech retailers like Best Buy are running all kinds of specials, which they compile on this back-to-school page of their website. This page of Apple’s website offers college students a free iPod Touch with a laptop purchase. (If you live near an Apple retail store, simply walk in and announce what school you’re from; you’ll often get a great deal right on the spot.) But remember that you’ll always find better deals used at sites like eBay or Craig’s list. For more ideas, check out our story 7 Tips to Trim Your Tech spending.

3. School Supplies

Unlike clothes, one size fits all. That’s why many parents hook up with friends and neighbors and buy supplies like pens, notebooks, and art supplies in bulk, then split the cost – and savings. Check out your warehouse store or local art supply stores, which sometimes sell in bulk and often undercut local retailers.

4. Go On A Holiday

A sales-tax holiday, that is. Sixteen states waive sales tax on certain back-to-school items for a limited time. Check out our state-by-state list of what states offer breaks and when.

5. Follow the Leaders

Major retailers have gotten new-media savvy and now use Twitter and Facebook to advertise sale items, even offering deeper discounts to those who read the tweet. Follow your favorite stores and save. Example? Here’s the Twitter page for Target. Here’s Walmart’s.

6. Online Coupons and Sales

Many sites – including Money Talks News – feature coupons and sales. Click here to go to our deals page. Enter what you’re looking for in the search engine and see what savings show up. And don’t stop there – on the same page we link to dozens of other deal sites.

Stacy Johnson

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