Even before Hurricane Irene interrupted back-to-school shopping, the nation was cautious about spending for the new semester. A teetering economy is affecting the purchasing choices of 75% of families with school-age children, and 70% said they planned to spend the same or less compared to last year, according to a MasterCard/Harris Interactive poll released this week.
The estimated $70 billion that we'll have forked over for school supplies and clothes before Labor Day sounds like a lot -- but apparently the sum could have been a lot higher. Nearly 70% of those interviewed were hunting for "discounts, coupons and deals," 50% were buying only must-have items, 44% were patronizing only stores that offered sales, and 46% were doing more comparison shopping.
If you want to keep your budget in check, try some of these savings ideas culled from DailyFinance's A-plus archives:
Spend a little more on a backpack that will last, unless you spot a sale.
Wait until you get the supply list from the teacher to avoid unnecessary purchases.
Don't start shopping for fall clothing until prices dip. September and early October are still warm in most regions.
If you must last-minute shop, leave the kids at home because they can influence decisions in the "Did I pay for that?" way, studies show.
Organize a clothes swap. This works especially well for the little ones.
Comb the consumer blogs and rating sites for quick comparison shopping.
For more data on back-to-school shopping, including a preview of holiday shopping intentions, please visit the Heart of Commerce blog. There you will also find MasterCard MarketPlace tips to help consumers save time and money this back-to-school season.