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Back to school is the second-biggest shopping season of the year (coming in after the holiday season). While buying new clothes and school supplies may be what your child looks forward to most about returning to the classroom, you should not have to spend a fortune every year. Below are some tips to save big during what can be an expensive time.

1. Take Stock of What You Have

Before you hit the shops, be sure to check your current supplies and be sure you’re not buying the same things you still have from previous years or older children. It’s a good idea to look through past school supplies for any unused or barely used items.

If you are missing some key items, you can consider a swap with other parents or a consignment shop for clothing, gear and general school supplies. Used or old supplies can be personalized with pictures or decorations to make them seem new and attractive again.

Another key savings tip is going green at lunchtime — bringing reusable containers instead of plastic and paper bags is environmentally friendly and can help you save big. Buying once at the beginning of the year can save the recurring cost of stocking up on those items.

2. Start Budgeting

It’s a good idea to plan your spending ahead of time so your budget can be maintained easily. Once at the store it can be very easy to make costly additions you don’t really need.

Talk with your child ahead of time on what you will focus on at the store so everyone is on the same page. It’s important to keep an eye out for sales and tax-free shopping dates. If you can persuade your child to stick to less trendy themes you can save money now and save tears later once the children move on from whatever is hot this summer. This applies to lunchboxes, school bags and pencil cases. Even if your kid loves a certain style or pattern in the summer, they may change their mind once they see their classmates or a few months pass by.

3. Stick to the List

The teacher or school supply list at the start of a new year can be daunting enough so be sure to save your time and money by sticking to the needs — even if only at first. Extra supplies can be cute and tempting at the store but will likely not be used and can leave your pockets empty.

You can condense the official list and make your own based on what you already own and what your child favors on a personal level. Focus on getting the best prices on big-ticket items like backpacks, computers or calculators. Other, cheaper items are on sale regularly and easier to find or re-use on the cheap. Finally, if you’re paying with a credit card, choose one with the best possible rates or rewards.

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