How to Save During the Back-to-School Home Stretch


If you want to contribute less to the estimated $70 billion that consumers will spend on back-to-school supplies, take this crash course in saving from Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

1. Get a list from the school. You know how you buy too much at the grocery store when you don't have a list? The same applies to pencils, paper and notebooks. Get a list from the school -- or better yet, the teacher -- to find out exactly what is required. You'll cut down on unnecessary purchases and transportation costs. Some teachers hand out lists on the first day, so it might be worth holding out.

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2. Leave the kids at home. Why get in the way of another summer afternoon of watching cartoons? Unless they're trying on jeans, keep your little scholars at home while you shop for the basics. Kids influence the majority of back-to-school spending, according to the National Retail Federation. Keep them from cramming the cart with impulse buys.

3. Get busy on the sales-tax holidays.
Be glad if you live in Connecticut, Maryland or Texas. They're the last states this year to hold sales-tax holidays, or sales-tax-free periods, for back-to-school shoppers. Virginia residents will get another shot in October.

4. Check your 529 fine print. Parents of the college-bound, beware. Thanks to changes by the taxman, those with 529 college-savings plans could be slapped with a 10% penalty if they use the 529 to buy computers, electronics and Internet services. But if your student's particular college requires the aforementioned, you're in the clear. Check with your child's institution.

"At a time when many American families are worried about the economy, the added strain of back-to-school expenses can unduly stress parents, both emotionally and financially," Blayney said in a press release. "By taking a proactive approach and using a smart financial plan, consumers can keep their children's school costs affordable and reduce the stress on themselves and their finances."

Also remember to check out DailyFinance's lineup of back-to-school-on-a-budget ideas, covering everything from backpack shopping to saving tips from savvy moms.

Class dismissed.

Originally published