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The booming business of back-to-school shopping

Date posted:  9/10/15 07:30:00 AM Back-to-school shopping can be costly for families.

Las Vegas native Liza Linderman is somewhat of an expert when it comes to shopping for a new school year. After all, Linderman, a mother of three, is in charge of completing all her family's back-to-school shopping lists.

Linderman told Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV that she makes all of her purchases the weekend before and the weekend after the first day of school. Not only does it keep her family from buying unneeded supplies, but she said buying everything in two trips helps her kids transition into the new school year.

"That way they don't have to bring everything on the first day," Linderman said. "I mean they get the necessity stuff for the first day but then afterwards we'll get little bags."

According to the National Retail Federation, Linderman​'s is one of many families that wait to make all of their back-to-school purchases until after the first day. The NRF recently released its Back-to-School/College Surveys and found less than half - 49.9 percent - of families with children ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade had finished their back-to-school shopping by mid-August, which was down from 52.1 percent last year.

Additionally, 23.6 percent of all families said they hadn't even started their school shopping by mid-August, which was up from 20.9 percent in August 2013.

"As the shopping season draws to a close, budget-conscious parents are likely hoping that end-of-summer sales and promotions will be just what they need to wrap up their school lists," said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF. "Much of the delay this summer could also stem from families holding out for a sales tax holiday in their state, as well as from influential teenagers who want to first see what their friends are buying before they ask mom and dad to commit to their fall needs."

School shopping is big season for retailers
While the back-to-school shopping season might not rival Christmas when it comes to the number or total dollar figures of purchases, many retailers across the country expect a boost in sales leading up to the new school year. The NRF reported the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics during back-to-school shopping.

Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst with Prosper Insights, said the costs of school supplies can be troubling for many Americans.

"As schools look to parents more and more to help fund classroom needs, parents are looking for as many ways as they can to cut costs, and that could very well be why we're seeing more people seek out coupons and sales this summer," Goodfellow said. "Low prices at the end of the season will definitely drive more college and school families to shop last minute, especially for those with specific items they need in order to start the school year."

While it's not always necessary, many families buy everything that comes on a back-to-school shopping list, which is often sent to them by the school or teachers. In fact, 16.4 percent of respondents said that every electronic item they purchase comes from classroom lists and school requirements.

Saving on school supplies
One way for families to save on school supplies is to shop during the sales tax holiday. Fifteen states currently offer a sales tax holiday in August to help families brace for back-to-school shopping, according to The Motley Fool.

But before money is spent on new supplies, it's a good idea to take inventory. Families might discover that many supplies on their lists are already accounted for from previous years.