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BBB advice for back-to-school bargain hunters
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The National Retail Federation releases predictions each year of average spending by families doing their back-to-school shopping. This year, a new spending record is expected. Families with elementary through high school students will average $696.70 in shopping expenses. For families with college students to shop for, the number is $976.78. Clearly the need to stretch those shopping dollars is great. Here are tips from your Better Business Bureau (BBB) on ways to cut costs and hopefully, bring your numbers below those huge expected averages.

What’s your budget?

Be methodical about your spending ability. Take a few moments to look at your household financial situation. Calculate as precisely as possible what your spending limit is. Realize that you may not need to buy everything at once. 

Got a list?

It does not take long to learn the parental drill for school supply shopping. Most schools make a list available for their students’ next year. You may have been given a physical list at the end of the last school year. You may have been told where to find the list online at the school’s website. Schools will also submit the list to local retailers. Visit retailer websites to see if your student’s list is posted. Resist impulse buying and stick to the list as much as you can.

Before you hit the stores

Remember that everything your student needs for the coming year does not have to be a store purchase. Check these sources before visiting a retailer:

• Home – Avoid double purchases by checking around your home for previously bought items that went unused or barely used. Your drawers and closets may contain forgotten-about items that are on your child’s list. 

• Network – Talk with neighbors and friends about what you’re going to shop for. They may already have just the thing you need. A “supply swap” could be beneficial to both parties. Their child that’s a year or two older than yours may have never used the exact item you’re looking for, and vice versa. 

• Garage sales – Hit some household sales and you may be surprised by what you can find for a tiny fraction of the cost at a store. If you know someone who enjoys the garage-sale circuit, let them know what you could use. 

• Thrift stores and consignment shops – These often-overlooked sources can be surprisingly helpful for shoppers on a tight budget. Just be willing to take the extra time required to sort through their wares.

The stores

Offers and coupons may be targeted your way by online retailers. Before you decide to utilize them, however, utilize BBB. Check out the retailer at, especially those you do not frequently buy from. Read their Business Profile and see how they have responded to complaints, if any. Be mindful of the need to protect your child’s identity online as well. Don’t give their name and age out.

Brick-and-mortar stores have websites that should be checked out before you visit them as well. You may be able to sign up for email or text alerts about sales or providing coupons. Check to see if a student discount is available. 

Always know a store’s return policy before buying from them. Save paper receipts or emailed receipts in case of future problems. Those problems can also sometimes be resolved more easily when you have made payment with a credit card.

Remember that in September, after the back-to-school rush is over, retailers usually drop clothing prices. If new school year clothes are part of your family’s tradition, put those purchase off until then. This will give your child a lesson in delayed-gratification.

For answers to other questions regarding back-to-school shopping, contact your BBB at 800-856-2417, or visit the website