Back-to-School Shopping: Consumers Get a 'C' for Careful Spending

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.

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