How to save on back-to-school shopping

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How to Save Money on School Equipment

As the excitement of the July Fourth holiday weekend quiets down, you might notice that stores are featuring back-to-school inventory. It's a good thing, because a new survey by Rubicon Project reports that nearly 25 percent of parents with children in kindergarten through 12th grade have already begun shopping for the upcoming school year.

Start thinking about the items you need now, and you can take advantage of early sales as well as take the pressure off later in the summer when you're trying to enjoy the waning long, sunny days. Here are a few tips to navigate sales during the next few months and spend less money and time on shopping:

Don't buy what you don't need.

It's so tempting to snatch up shiny new notebooks and folders right away in the beautifully designed display cases you see in stores, but wait before you buy. The first thing to do is dig through last year's backpacks and desks with your kids to find out what supplies are left over. Chances are there are a few things that weren't even opened yet. Take inventory of everything you have, including each child's wardrobe, and then make a list of what supplies and clothing is needed for next year.

Get the list, check it twice.

If you have not yet received a list from your child's teacher with required supplies, contact the school and ask for one. This is especially important for specific items you might need (like certain models of calculators), which you might want to buy early to make sure you get them before a store runs out.

As for the generic supplies, such as folders, notebooks and pencils, consider scheduling a quick shopping trip late in the summer. You can get great bargains as stores try to clear the shelves of these popular items when school is about to start.

Stay home and shop.

If you think you need to head to stores to get back-to-school supplies and great deals, you might be pleasantly surprised to find out that you can do most of your shopping from home. Often you can combine additional discounts with sales on school supplies, technology and fall clothing. Visit your favorite coupon website and check for codes that will take an additional percentage off your total or get free shipping on an order. Always search for codes before checking out to make sure you're not missing any deals.

Another way to save money on your online shopping is clicking through a cash back website before you make your purchase to earn a percentage back on your order. You might find that certain stores are offering bonus cash back rates to celebrate the back-to-school season. Loyalty cards can also help stack up on the savings, especially if you're shopping at retailers that are already familiar to you.

A new event this year is Amazon Prime Day. On July 15, Amazon is hosting a major sales event for its Prime members and is claiming there will be even more deals than Black Friday. If you're not an Amazon Prime member, you can sign up for a 30-day free membership to gain access to the sales. This could be an especially great opportunity to look for deals on electronics like laptops that are needed for school.

If your kids love the annual tradition of heading to the mall or the outlets to shop for school, you don't have to miss out on that fun day together. Check to see if your state hosts a tax-free holiday weekend – they usually occur in early August. Bring along your smartphone and check online before you make any purchases to make sure you're getting the best deal. You can also use a coupon website or mobile app to access coupons for use in the store. If you don't end up buying an item you want in the store, you can purchase it online and find a free shipping offer. That way you can make sure your kids each get a few things they really want without emptying your wallet.

I hope that with these tips and suggestions you'll find yourself breezing through the back-to-school shopping season and saving money in the process. Then, you, and your kids, can focus on learning!

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

Check out some great back-to-school items from target in the slideshow below.

Our favorite back to school items from Target
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How to save on back-to-school shopping

You can't lose a pencil case when it's this cute! 

Get it here: Orla Kiely Garden Pencil Case      

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Even if penmanship isn't perfect, school notes are guaranteed to look good with these metallic-accented notebooks. 

Get it here: Greenroom Metallic Pattern Notebook

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This alarm clocks simulates a sunrise to wake you up. The light gradually gets brighter up to an hour before the set alarm time.

Get it here: Natural Wake up Alarm Clock      

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It's hard not to get excited for lunch with this adorable yellow-polka-dot lunch box.

Get it here: JWorld Corey Lunch Bag with Front Pocket

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Double check your calculations in style!

Get it here: Inkology Glam Rocks Rhinestone Calculator

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Personalize your tablet with fun cases like this freestanding tablet case for Apple's iPad.

Get it here: Speck Products iGuy Freestanding Case for iPad

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This lunch box is a must-have for "Despicable Me" fans.

Get it here: Despicable Me Minion Lights and Sound Insulated Lunch Bag      

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This water bottle has a replaceable carbon filter to remove contaminants from tap water faucets. It meets the NSG International Standard 42 for taste and odor reduction. 

Get it here: Bobble Water Bottle

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These cheetah print shoes are easy to slip on and out of, so the kids can get out to recess even faster.

Get it here: Girl's Circo Hollie Sneaker

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This backpack is both cute and functional. This style comes in a variety of fun colors and patterns!

Get it Here: Mossimo Supply Co. Backpack Handbag 

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Listen to study music in style with these colorful and bold headphones.

Get it here: Beats by Dre Solo™ HD

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These sneakers from Olympic and X-Game athlete Shaun White's collection are sure to be a hit on the playground.

Get it Here: Boy's Shaun White Marmont High Top Sneakers

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Don't lose any important notes with this Zip binder. 

Get it here: Mead Sewn Zip Binder with Handle  

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These pencils are amazing because for every Yoobi item you buy, Yoobi will donate that same item to a classroom in need in the US. These pre-sharpened pencils come in a variety of fun colors. 

Get it here: Yoobi 24ct No.2 Pencils

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This patterned planner is sure to be a hit in the classroom.

Get it here: Mead 8.5x11 Clear Poly Planner      

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Post-it's are always good to have on hand!

Get it here: Post-it Sticky Notes  

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With its bright color and bold pattern, these scissors make the cut.

Get it here: Scotch Scissors

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Note-taking is more fun when you have all the colors you could ever want!

Get it here: PaperMate Inkjoy 18ct Asst. Ballpoint Stick Pen    

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Little guys can stay active with bright sneaker options. 

Get it here: Boy's C9 by Champion® Blaze Sneaker

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For the artistically-inclined, this calligraphy pen set is a must-have for fancy handwritten script.

Get it here: Calligraphy Pen 33 Piece Set      

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This Android, designed specifically for kids, delivers a fun and interactive experience. 

Get it here: Nabi 7" Kids Android Tablet

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Stock up on e-books without crowding the bookshelves! The Nook is perfect for the avid reader. The Glowlight has built in Wi-Fi, illuminated pages and battery life of up to eight weeks.

Get it here: NOOK Glowlight

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This lightweight and durable laptop has a bright and crisp touchscreen.

Get it here: Acer® Aspire 15.6" Touchscreen Laptop PC

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These straight fit, dark wash jeans make for a versatile wardrobe staple for the boys. 

Get it here: Boys' Straight Jean      

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It's easy to transfer school projects and assignments with this thumb-drive.

Get it here: Dane-Elec 8GB USB Flash Drive

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Button up with the perfect plaid tee.

Get it here: Boys' Plaid Button Down Shirt

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This dress makes for a great first-day outfit with its bold print and great silhouette.

Get it here: Girls' Chevron A Line Dress

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This backpack is perfect for the tech-savvy! It comes with a pair of studio-grade earphones that work perfectly with the front media pocket.

Get it here: FAB Backpack With Earbuds      

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This cool hat was designed by Shaun White.

Get it here: Shaun White 4 Target® Boys' Print Flatbrim Hat     

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These pieces are great for a school with a strict dress code or just for a refined look.

Get it here: Cherokee® Girls' School Uniform Short-Sleeve Blouse and Jumper Set      

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Headbands are a quick and easy addition to a hairstyle in the morning.

Get it here: Girls' PU Bow Headband

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Help the kids stay organized and on top of homework and exam dates. This planner, available in a variety of patterns, will keep the days in order. 

Get it here:  Mead Arrow/Stripe Planner          

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This 3-piece collection is laid-back and comfortable but still great looking.

Get it here: Back to School Skateboard Chic Shaun White 3-Piece Collection

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Back-to-school shopping is a cinch with this brown belt for the boys.

Get it here: Boys' Wide Faux Leather Belt

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These silky harem pants will be a hit for the fashion forward students!

Get it here: Girls' Silky Harem Pant      

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This classic look makes a nice layering option for the boys.

Get it here: Boys' Varsity Jacket

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This black riding boot is a stylish and inexpensive investment in a classic style for the girls!

Get it here: Girl's Cherokee® Feebie Contrast Zip Riding Boots

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It's easy to make your mark with these colorful Sharpies.

Get it here: Sharpie 18ct Asst. Fine tip Permanent Marker      

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This girls' quilted sweater is stylish and comfortable. 

Get it here: Girls' Quilted Pullover Sweater      

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With a bit of stretch, jeggings are a great option for growing girls!

Get it here: Girls' Jeggings

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Keep the kids on the run in style! This pair is ventilated for cooling and has cushiony support. 

Get it here: Girl's C9 by Champion® Legend Running Shoes

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The kids can track how active they are in school, at recess and during gym class with this Fitbit bracelet. 

Get it here: Fitbit Flex Wireless Wristband

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Polos and khaki pants make for a classic combination that will be great in your son's closet.

Get it here: Cherokee® Toddler Boys' School Uniform Short

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Ariana Grande is one of the biggest stars on the airwaves. Pick up the deluxe version of her album, "My Everything," for two bonus songs for some after-school fun.

Get it here: Ariana Grande - My Everything

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These lace-up oxfords are a smart option to fit the uniform dress code.

Get it here: Boy's French Toast® Lace-up Uniform Oxford

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