3 Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

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It's that time of the year. Here's how to load up on school supplies without breaking the bank.

As much as nobody wants to wish the summer away, the reality is that school will be starting again before we know it. And that could put a strain on a lot of parents' bank accounts. If you're gearing up to buy school supplies and apparel, here are a few things you can do to lower your costs.

1. Get your lists ready in advance

Being organized will help you avoid a last-minute scramble on the school supplies front. And that could help you avoid overpaying for the things you need.

Go through your kids' closets now and see what clothing items you need to replace. Then see if there's a list of supplies on your school's website so you can start checking things off.

Some schools also submit their list information to retailers to simplify the shopping process. For example, Target has a school supply program where parents can put in the name of their children's schools and get a complete list of supplies they need for the upcoming academic year.

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2. Embrace the discount store

Some people are afraid to shop at dollar stores because they're afraid the quality of the items they sell isn't great. But here's a reality check -- many discount stores stock the same brands you'll find in a big-box store or supermarket, only you'll pay a lot less for them.

Now to be fair, you may also find some off-brand items at discount stores. But you know what? At the end of the day, a ruler is a ruler, and if you buy one for $0.50 instead of $2, your children won't know the difference.

Similarly, it's common for kids to outgrow their clothing at a rapid pace. Be judicious about buying things like T-shirts and jeans, and aim to only purchase those items when they're heavily discounted. And if you can outfit your kids with hand-me-downs from older siblings, do it.

3. Use a credit card that rewards you generously

Spending some amount of money on school supplies and apparel is inevitable, and even if you do your best to scope out sales, your bills could add up. But the right credit card could help you reap some savings in the course of your purchases.

If you charge your back-to-school expenses on a credit card that offers a generous amount of cash back, that cash can help offset your bills. Plus, some credit cards come with revolving rewards categories. It's worth seeing if any of your cards are offering bonus cash back for big-box or department store purchases this quarter, as those may be a good source of supplies, clothing, and shoes.

It's no secret that children cost a lot of money to raise, and the back-to-school season can be particularly expensive. The last thing you want to do is land in debt in the course of your shopping, so make a plan to get organized, shop at the right stores, and use credit cards to your advantage.

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