School shopping and other topics.

thHaven’t started your back-to-school shopping yet? You’re not alone.

According to the National Retail Federation, 44.5% of parents will shop from three to four weeks before school starts. Another 25.4% will wait until one or two weeks before the first day of classes.

Despite the rising cost of basics like food, fuel and utilities, we will be shopping. That NRF survey indicates that combined K-12 and college spending will reach just under $75 billion in the United States this year.

However, we’ll be pickier about how and where we buy. For example:

  • 64.4% will shop at discount stores
  • 34% will buy store brand or generic items
  • 25.6% will repurpose some school items from last year

The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend an average $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5 percent from 2013. Families with college students will spend $916.48.

What to buy in August: How to make your back-to-school bucks count” is the topic of my monthly post in Retail Me Not’s The Real Deal blog. Remember, too, that back-to-school sales are a good way to replenish your home office. Go ahead and get that Angry Birds flash drive if you want. Brown-bagging it with an Angry Birds lunchbox, on the other hand, is pushing it.

More article links, plus coupons

Recently I was interviewed by Mint.com on the topic of money management. It’s part of a series of Q&As with personal finance writers. Hope you’ll give it a read.

I answer questions about frugal-living misconceptions, tips on overcoming bad spending habits, creating a family budget and preparing kids to manage money.

And speaking of kids and money management: The second half of my Get Rich Slowly piece on that very topic ran today. “What older children need to know about money” focuses on topics such as higher education, college loans, credit scores and why debit cards might not be the right choice in the long run.

Finally: You may have noticed a big block o’ coupons on the right side of the home page. You don’t have to install a coupon printer in order to print out these Qs. If you print any out, I get a teeny-tiny bonus. Remember my oft-repeated mantra: A solvent blogger is a happy blogger.

Related reading:

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  1. “You don’t have to install a coupon printer in order to print out these Qs.”

    That was all I needed to hear.


  2. @Nancy: YES! I really appreciate this easy option. Thanks Donna!

  3. penguide

    I work at a kid’s clothing store. My employer is trying to eat higher costs without raising prices, so deals on our back to school sale are not as good as past years. From the looks of it, all the other stores in the area are in a similar situation. Shop carefully, and remember your coupons.

  4. Once I learned that my kids’ annual growth spurt occurred between Labor Day and Christmas, I quit making a big deal out of back to school shopping. I’d buy them a new outfit for the first day (especially for my DD), then we’d make do till the next sale came along. Like most of you, we re-used backpacks, lunch boxes, crayons, pencil boxes, etc. My college-age DD is still using an L.L. Bean backpack that someone gave to DH, which DS used all through middle and high school. This approach not only saved me money, it also reduced the amount of clutter in my house!

  5. I don’t have any kids and graduated years back so I don’t buy school supplies anymore but I had to comment since I do use coupons for everything. I agree “solve blogger happy blogger!”

  6. You don’t have to install a coupon printer in order to print out these Qs …THANK YOU, and a big sigh of relief.

  7. lostAnnfound

    Not too many school supplies to buy this year (older daughter in college and younger daughter graduated H.S. two months ago (YAY!)).

    COUPONS! Love them!. Thanks for sharing them!!

  8. I have a friend who works in a nice department store, and he gets some pretty big discounts (which he shares with me 🙂

  9. Here in Calif., school uniforms are an option for elementary students. Sure makes it easier each morning. My own kids went to Catholic school so unis were required. My neighbor’s kids go to public school but she does the uniforms. If they do well in school, she lets them wear regular clothes every now and then. Works for her.

    When I was shopping for back to school, I always hit the sales. I don’t think I ever spent the national averages quoted in your article.

    I was in line at Kohl’s last Friday and the lady in front of me was obviously doing back to school run. Although on sale, all the clothes she had were “name” brand: Levi’s, Addidas, Nike etc.. I handed her a “Friends & Family 20% discount pass” to use. She was totally unaware of this discount; and the fact that they were also giving an additional 10% discount to cover state tax. I didn’t want to give her a heart attack by showing her the $10/$30 coupon that was in that day’s newspaper. Still, she was very grateful the the 20% discount pass. It probably saved her at least $40-$60. It’s probably shoppers like her that get that average number as high as it is.

  10. I, like Kate, don’t make a big deal about back to school shopping. Since it stays quite warm here for a month or two after school starts, we don’t buy clothes until closer to fall/winter. This also gives my daughter an idea of what the other kids are wearing, etc. I have collected quite a stash of back to school supplies, so we can usually find whatever they need in that box. When my son got into high school, I gave him a monthly budget for clothes and supplies and let him make his choices about what he needed/wanted. It’s amazing how their choices change when the money is in their bank account. They spend it a little differently! He is off to college this year, and I am confident he will know how to stretch his dollars that he budgets each month.

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