Back-to-school season starts around the 4th of July in many parts of the country, and culminates the day after Labor Day when even the last hold-outs for the traditional school calendar go back. It can be exciting, fun, and scary, both for parents and kids. It can also be expensive.
A 2013 National Retail Federation's back-to-school survey conducted by Propser Insights & Analytics found that families will spend an average of $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics -- down from $688.62 last year, indicating families are trying to cut back.
Back-to-school supply checklists used to include a handful of items like pencils, notebooks, and perhaps some crayons. But with much smaller budgets and growing class sizes, many schools rely on parents for typing paper, cleaning supplies, and their dry erase markers. All those extras add up.
Parents are also hit up with specific requests from gym, music and art teachers. And in families with two or three or more kids, back-to-school supplies can make a huge dent in a family's budget. Here are five tips to make the back-to-school savings add up.
1) Buy store brand items.
Buying store brand crayons, paper and hand sanitizer will not makeyour child a pariah in his or her school. It can save parents as much as 75 percent, according to Consumer Reports ShopSmart Magazine, and the items are often identical except for the outside packaging. Just be sure to get the comparable item.
2) See what's at home.
There may be perfectly good school supplies already in your home that can fulfill the requirements. Check back closets and old book bags for unused items. Things like backpacks and lunch boxes can also be reused year to year as long as there are no holes, tearing, or excess staining.
3. Shop the sales.
It makes sense that the biggest sales on back-to-school supplies will be once everyone goes back to school. If possible, hold off on getting big-ticket items (like backpacks, scientific calculators, or the necessary locker decorations) until a week or two into the year when the items will go on clearance.