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Budgeting for your back-to-school shopping extravaganza

Date posted:  8/15/16 09:00:00 AM Tips for saving for school expenses

There's nothing quite as exciting as shopping for school supplies with your little ones – at least the first few times around. By second or third grade, back-to-school shopping begins to feel like a chore. Sure, it's nice to see your kids excited to head back in school, but let's face it: purchasing all of those school supplies and clothes can really add up.

The good news is that there are a few simple tips that could save you money on your back-to-school extravaganza.

Raid your cabinets
You'd probably be shocked at how many duplicate purchases you've made over the years, especially for parents who have children of different ages to shop for. Everything from perfectly usable pencils to folders from the home office, to that lunch box your eldest refused to use because it's no longer cool enough, can be repurposed as school supplies. The same also applies for clothes. Hand-me-downs are an excellent way to save money on clothing purchases, while getting the most of garments that your older children have outgrown.

Take advantage of coupons and online bargains
Granted, not every parent is a second-timer, and this means two things: first, there's probably fewer unused or hardly-used school supplies and clothing lying around the house, and second, the kids may be far more excited about school shopping since it's their first few times around the block. As such, they'll be more involved in the shopping and you may be tempted to buy them the coolest school supplies. This is one area where you should watch for overspending. Your kindergartener might not need that panda-shaped stapler, even if it goes so well with the panda backpack and lunchbox you got for her.

If you simply can't resist these extra purchases, remember that coupons are your best friend. Start looking for these early. If you're an Amazon Prime member, take advantage of the company's frequent sales and compare prices to find the online retailer that offers the most significant discounts on back-to-school products. Make a list of the things you need, and then scour the web for bargains and coupons.

Look for a tax-free weekend near you
Every year, many states will offer tax-free weekends on certain items. Participating states will usually have one such event lasting a weekend to four days in the winter, and another in late July or early August. The latter coincides perfectly with the back-to-school season. With any luck, you might also find coupons and sales that coincide with this government program.

For a complete list of tax holidays by state, click here.

Get the timing right
Generally speaking, procrastination is the number-one way to struggle at back-school shopping. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, Parenting.com recommends that you hold off buying certain "trendy" items such as lunch boxes until closer to the start of school. The reason is that trends change so quickly among children, and it's possible that by September, a movie or theme that kids love more even than the current craze will have been released. It's also worth noting that many school supplies will go on clearance toward the middle to end of September. It may be in your best interest to save any non-urgent purchases for September, or buy a small amount to start them out and then stock up during the sales.

Learn how to say "no"
Last but not least, a single word may be able to save you more money than anything else on this list. That word is "no." Chances are, the book bag with your child's favorite cartoon character is markedly more expensive than a generic blue canvas book bag. The same goes for designer folders, pencils, glittery crayons and trendy lunchbox. If it helps, consider shopping without the kids to avoid too many requests and extra items being thrown into the cart.