Smart SpendingSmart Spending

6 tips to stretch back-to-school cash

Parents will spend more this year than last on their schoolchildren. But will they spend it wisely?

By Stacy Johnson Aug 30, 2010 11:51AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at Money Talks News.


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, 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 bottom of a drawer.


Take a look at the following video, then meet me on the other side for more.

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. 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 with $549 last year.


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


Here are five tips for stretching your back-to-school dollars:


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.
  • Before you hit the malls, check used-clothing stores like consignment stores and thrift shops. (For more on clothes savings, see our story "18 tips to dress for less.")

Electronics. You can score great deals on computer-related items right now. Tech retailers like Best Buy are running lots of specials. Apple is offering 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. Remember that you can find good deals on used electronics at sites like eBay or Craigslist. (For more ideas, check out our story "7 tips to trim your tech spending.")


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 divide the cost -- and savings. Check out your warehouse store or local art supply stores, which sometimes sell in bulk.


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.


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 Wal-Mart's.

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.


More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.