Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Five Ways to Maximize Your Back to School Budget

(ARA) – For students across the country, the beginning of a new school year is just around the corner. And, if you haven’t started your back-to-school shopping yet, you may soon find yourself dealing with large crowds and pricey cash register totals.

Back-to-school spending is expected to jump 6.9 percent this year, and families with school-aged children are expected to spend a total of $18.4 billion, an average of $563.49 per child. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2007 back-to-school survey, here’s how the register totals break down:

* Clothing and accessories: $231.80
* Shoes: $108.42 * School supplies (notebooks, backpacks and lunchboxes): $94.02
* Electronics or computer-related equipment: $129.24 To reduce the financial strain of back-to-school expenses, use these five tips to develop a strategy before you venture to the malls.

Tip No. 1 - Generate a list of necessities and stick to it. Younger children typically receive a list of required supplies directly from their school. Most teenagers will want to generate their own lists -- make sure to spend time reviewing it together before you head to the stores. Often a teenager’s definition of “necessity” may be slightly different than their parent’s.

Sending kids off to college? Remember -- they’ll need a lot more than the basics. Make sure to include items such as linens, laundry supplies, computers and more.

Tip No. 2 - Watch for sales. It seems like back-to-school sales start earlier every year. Start as early as possible and stockpile supplies little by little as they go on sale. By spreading out back-to-school expenses into several smaller purchases as you find the sales, you’ll feel less of an impact on your budget, and you’ll save money overall.

In addition to the basic school supplies and clothing, bigger ticket items such as electronics, laptops, calculators, cell phones, MP3 players and digital cameras tend to go on sale as new items are often released to hit stores in time for holiday shopping.

Tip No. 3 - Take advantage of price matching. Many retailers now offer to match their competitor’s prices. If an item on your list is on sale at a store that’s too far out of your way, look for a more convenient, competitor store that will match the offer. You’ll not only spend less on the item itself, but you’ll save yourself time and gasoline.

Tip No. 4 - Supplement your budget with your change. Concerned about how you’re going to pay for all the things your list? Coinstar, Inc. estimates that there is approximately $90 worth of change in the average American home waiting to be put to good use.

Take your change to the nearest Coinstar Center and have it counted for free when you place the value of your change onto a gift card or certificate from retailers like, Circuit City, iTunes, Timberland and more. Or, turn your change in for cash (there’s a nominal service fee) and spend it anywhere you like. (Visit for details and to find the nearest location.)

Tip No. 5 - Ask for student discounts. Don’t forget about student discount programs. While most are geared towards college students making their own purchases, many are extending to middle and high school students. Depending on the amount of the purchase, the savings could be substantial.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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