Intro: Sharpen your pencils, make your lunch and pack your books - it's back-to-school time.
Nat sound/child gasping with devastated look.
It's estimated that parents will spend an average of just over $600-hundred dollars to get one child ready for school this year.
Nat sound/parent gasping with devastated look
However, you can cut costs in half just by being proactive with sales, recycling and online searches.
Before you step foot in a store the first money-saving step is to take inventory of your kids' closet to find out what fits and what doesn't. This also provides the perfect opportunity to clean your closet and either pass down clothing from one kid to the next, sell the clothes to a consignment shop or donate them to charity.
Next, set a budget. Decide what items are essential - like the class list of required supplies. If you can, look at last year's receipts to set a starting point for this year's budget - and challenge yourself to try to come in under that amount. A good strategy is to use the envelope system and spend only the cash allotted in the envelope.
When shopping, use your clothing inventory as a checklist on items you need to buy. Focus on five to seven basic items like jeans, khakis, a skirt, two shirts and a sweater. You can mix-in low cost accessories like belts, tank tops and tights that takes kids longer to grow out of.
Certain items like pencils, pens, paper, markers and paint can be bought in bulk as they get used up pretty quickly.
Pay attention to the weekly ad inserts in your local newspaper. Visit retail websites to print out coupons, or you can download smartphone apps that provide mobile coupons. Finally, use comparison-shopping engines like Amazon, Pricegrabber.com and Nextag.com to find specific items and bargains.
For more back-to-school savings, log onto Bankrate.com. I'm Kristin Arnold.