Frugal tips to ease back-to-school shopping expenses

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

As the summer season winds down, the start of a new school year is fast approaching. Every new school year presents new challenges and opportunities. The anxiety of back-to-shopping can be enormous due to the already high unemployment rate and the rising cost of households goods. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, 49.6 percent of people said they plan to spend less on school supplies. The average family with students from grades Kindergarten through 12 is expecting to spend under $548.72 on school merchandise – a decline of 7.7 percent from 2008.

The best strategy for back-to-school shopping is to start with a game plan. The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) offer parents a little recession-friendly advice to help stretch their dollars without depriving their kids.

Look for special promotions. During this time of the year many stores are offering amazing back-to-school sales. Watch out for special promotions such as free-shipping and those “buy two for one” deals.

Do your shopping during “tax free days.” These days usually last for an entire weekend in either July or August. This is a great time to buy t-shirts, socks, and school uniforms.

Reuse what you already have. Many school supplies such as backpacks, binders, and pens can have a second life. Take inventory of last year’s supplies to see what is left over and what can be reused. Also, school supplies from older siblings - that are still in good condition - can be passed down to younger siblings.

Shop at local consignment stores. The end of summer is when many thrift stores are getting great, gently used clothing. These stores offer amazing pricing for quality merchandise. Thrift stores have strict policies for accepting items so you don’t have to worry about buying anything damaged.

Take advantage of Thursday nights. Many department store sales begin on Thursday and run through Sunday. Many of us save our shopping for the weekend, but a trip to the mall on Thursday can produce great savings and you’ll get first rights on merchandise.

Finally, to save on back-to-school shopping it’s important to set a budget and stick to it. With proper planning, you can prepare your children for another school year without breaking the bank.