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Frugal Family: Back-to-School Shopping Strategies

School starts next week. The requisite buying spree doesn't have to break the bank.

The kids of Burlington will soon be donning new outfits, tossing backpacks over their shoulders and stepping onto buses. Parents will be attempting to capture the first-day-of-school smiles with their iPhone cameras.

What are they doing now? They’re enjoying their last moments of  freedom. They’re swimming, hanging out with their friends, and eating ice cream. And they’re shopping.

Here are suggestions for stretching back-to-school dollars.

Take inventory of what you’ve already got. Have the kids try on all their clothing to see what still fits. Wash the backpacks and see how they look. Find all the school supplies and decide what is still usable.

Make a list of what’s needed. Kids who are kindergarten-aged and older can understand the difference between “wants” and “needs.” Start the shopping list with what’s essential. Then, decide which “nice-to-haves” make the cut. In many households, a new outfit to wear the first day of school is standard, but a whole new wardrobe is not. Good quality backpacks can last through several school years. Binders that are still in good shape are easily reused.

Get Ready to Store-Hop. Stores like Kmart, Target and Staples are all trying to attract back-to-school shoppers. Even CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens are competing for these dollars. How do they lure you in? They do it by practically giving away a few select items. Their hope: Once in the store, you will just buy everything on your kids’ lists there.

Don’t fall for it!

Right now, is offering 1-subject notebooks for a penny apiece. Composition notebooks cost 50 cents each.

is also running back-to-school sales and have free shipping for any online order over $50. They are also running sales on new school clothing and supplies.

My advice: Buy the Sunday paper, consult the flyers, and run around town scooping up the deals. It may take some time, but in the end, will save a great deal of money.

Buy School Supplies in Bulk. Pencils don’t take up much space, and you know you’ll need them throughout the year. Bigger packs cost less per unit, so do the math and save. The same goes for other items like poster board, index cards and Post-Its. If you have the room, buy copy paper in bulk and never have to run out the night before a report is due.

Join Frequent Buyer Programs. If you shop at Staples, join their Staples Rewards program. You’ll receive quarterly gift certificates based on your spending level. Returning empty ink cartridges to the store for recycling will increase the amount of your award.

How's your back-to school shopping going? Find any great deals? Share them with the rest of Burlington's parents!

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