NEW YORK - It's prime shopping time for back to school items, and even though retail sales are down, business is booming. The National Retail Federation says back-to-school and college shopping will top $83 billion this year, up 10 percent from last year.
But how do you avoid busting your budget?
Shopping at places like BJ's wholesale, even with its $40 annual membership fee, could save you hundreds of dollars.
"The membership pays for itself with all the savings you will get for the entire year," Retail Me Not shopping expert Sara Skirboll said.
Especially if you search for coupons, like a $25 gift card with membership renewal at Sam's Club and $10 off membership at BJ's.
And while you're researching, locate promo codes and check the circular to search for coupons.
"I always recommend to parents, stack your saving," Skirboll said. "It's super easy. It sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. All you do is you need a coupon, you need a discount gift card, you need a cash back offer, and then boom, you're automatically saving at least $20 or more."
Skirboll's next school shopping tip is to steer your kids away from trendy.
"Try to sway your child into buying something a little more generic, that they're going to use not just this year, but six months from now or a year from now," she said.
When it comes to clothes and shoes, make sure kids actually try items on. Online shopping is convenient, but it can be an epic fail if your child refuses to wear the stuff.
Teacher and retail associate Alyssa Plescia says independent shops competing with Amazon also offer special discounts, like frequent buyer programs that major retailers do not.
"You kind of have to, to reel them in to keep shopping at the store," she said.
Skirboll also suggests staggering your shopping since kids outgrow clothes so quickly, and avoiding designer duds and name-brand items will also help you save, especially on school supplies.
And if you're getting a kid ready for college, from TVs to tech, try to buy last year's model.
"Go to clearance section, because they're still good," Skirboll said. "And let's be honest, if your kid's taking it to the dorm room for his first year of college, it might not last to the second year."
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