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How to save money on back-to-school shopping

A back-to-school shopping display at Target on July

A back-to-school shopping display at Target on July 31, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif. Photo Credit: Getty Images for Target

Parents, get your wallets out.

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school and back-to-college spending is expected to reach $83.6 million, an increase of more than 10 percent over last year’s $75.8 billion.

Shopping for school stuff may seem as simple as ABC, but if you’re not smart, you could overpay. Here are a few tips.

  • Be patient

Monitor prices early to get an idea of how much supplies usually cost — then you’ll know what a good price looks like.

“Dragging your feet doesn’t pay off in school, but it does when school shopping,” says Courtney Jespersen, a shopping expert with NerdWallet.com. “The longer you wait to buy your supplies, the more motivated retailers will be to move inventory. Discounts get especially deep at the end of August and beginning of September.

“If you can, start the school year with the bare minimum and buy the rest after school is in session.”

  • Take inventory

Before you hit the stores or websites to shop, make sure to take inventory of last year’s supplies. Durable items like backpacks and binders may not need to be replaced, points out Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com.

Don’t spend money on what you don’t need. Prepare a list of what you need and set a budget.

  • Spread the wealth

Shopping at a single store or online outlet is convenient but not the best approach if you’re trying to optimize your budget.

“Compare prices,” says Kendal Perez, a savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. “Use Flipp.com or download the Flipp app to compare weekly circulars from big-box stores, drugstores, department stores and even grocery stores to determine who has the best price on back-to-school supplies.”

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