Saving on back-to-school shopping

August 18, 2009 3:04:57 PM PDT
The new school year is quickly approaching, and stores are doing whatever they can to get people to spend money. But so far, it hasn't been a great year for retailers.So what are parents doing to save money?

It's not the way retailers hoped to kick off the back-to-school shopping season. Sales are down 7.7 percent, and the average family is spending $46 less than last year.

So what's going on? It's more back to basics than back to school.

"Basically, what we just got here were less supplies," mom Mary Jane Matter said after a shopping trip.

Matter and her daughter Arriana are getting ready for the sixth grade. Last year, they would have bought $120 worth of supplies. This year, the total is a mere $27.

"We're seeing parents be much more practical," said Ellen Davis, of the National Retail Federation. "We're seeing them taking price into account, and we're seeing them make bare-bones decisions."

Here are some other things parents should take into account:

  • Create a budget. There's no need to buy everything before school starts. So make a shopping list and then stick to it.

  • Quality counts. It may cost extra to a buy a quality backpack, lunchbox or binder, but chances are they'll last much longer.

  • Take an inventory. Check what items your son or daughter already has. If the items are in good condition, there is no need to replace them. That will save some serious cash.

  • Go for the reusable insulated lunchbox and food storage containers, instead of the brown bags and plastic baggies, which cost more over time.

  • Keep your eyes open for sales and rebates throughout the year. You'll find them at pharmacies, grocery stores and discount department stores. And when you find them, stock up.

    As for Arriana and her mom, there is a whole new reality to this year's shopping season.

    "I don't want to spend more than $20 on a backpack," Matter said. "We can do some shopping next time after the next pay day."

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    WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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