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Don't break the bank on back-to-school shopping

Back-to-school shoppers are still relying primarily on brick-and-mortar

Back-to-school shoppers are still relying primarily on brick-and-mortar stores but are increasingly purchasing supplies online, according to NPD Group Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For some kids, back-to-school shopping is second only to the December holidays. They hope to haul in a massive amount of wardrobe and gear.

The good news for them and bad news for parents is that according to the National Retail Federation, record back-to-school spending is expected this year. NRF says families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend an average of $696, up from $684 last year, while those with college students are likely to spend an average of $976, compared to $942.

But there are ways to avoid spending a fortune. Here are a few last-minute school shopping hacks.

Create a budget

“Set a limit. Make a list and stick to it. Compare prices and make smart, practical decisions. Remember that a $20 pen will do the same job as a $2 one,” says Amanda Ramkissoon, personal blogger and owner of FrugalMomGuide.com.

Take inventory

Before shopping, look around your house. You're sure to find extra pens, pencils and other supplies around your home office or kitchen catchall drawer. “Save time and money by scratching these items off your list,” says Ramkissoon.

Look into hand-me-downs

“If you have friends who have kids that are older, check in with them to see if they have any leftover supplies that they’re not going to use and wouldn’t mind passing on to your kids,” says debt resolution attorney Leslie Tayne, with the Tayne Law Group in Melville.

Be mindful of timing

Says Tanya Peterson, vice president of brand with Freedom Debt Relief in San Mateo, California, “Don’t shop yet — for certain items. If there is something on the list your child won’t need immediately, hold off and buy it when clearance sales start, usually right after school opens.”

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