Back-to-School At A Discount

–Clearpoint offers ideas for thrifty shopping without relying on credit

Back-to-school expenses can sap our checking account and cause us to rely unnecessarily on our credit cards.  According to a recent survey, this year the average family is expected to spend $669.28 on back-to-school merchandise. Here are some tips to keep the costs manageable.

  • Make a list — Include the items required by your child’s teachers or school (like gym clothes, books or art supplies). Then add your kid’s “needs” rather than “wants”—notebooks, pens, calculators, and such. Include the wants—laptop, cell phone, PDAs to another list. Inventory what you already have—clothes in good condition, school supplies, scissors—and eliminate them from your list.
  • Determine a limit and track your spending — Figure out  how much you can reasonably spend for back-to-school and share this amount with your child. Explain the importance of using a budget.  As you go, keep a running total of the you amount spend.
  • Year after year, clothing and accessories is the number one category for spending so take special care in this area.  If you have trouble meeting your budget, consider buying one new outfit for your child and shop for more in a month or so, after you’ve had more time to save.
  • Motivate — Involve your children in comparison-shopping.  With small kids, make it a game to earn something simple like a dinner at Chuck E. Cheese’s and with older ones, you can offer to pay him or her the difference between the budgeted amount and what you spend.  This savings may also be used to buy items on the “wants” list.
  • Take advantage of “tax holidays”— Many states offer sales tax holidays when back-to-school purchases are tax-exempt. Search your state, “back-to-school,” “tax break” and “2009” to see if yours participates.  If so, shopping on those days will save you 5-10% on your purchases.
  • If your state doesn’t participate, check out nearby ones — it may be worth making a quick trip over the border.  Likewise, in some areas, sales taxes vary by municipality.  For instance, in the Pico Rivera neighborhood of Los Angeles, sales taxes run at 10.75%. In neighboring Montebello, sales taxes drop to 9.75%. In Cypress, 14 miles south, the same items will be taxed at 8.75%.
  • Look for special offers and deals — Check newspaper sales circulars.  Also search for promotional codes and coupons on the Web.  By signing up for the email lists of large retailers—including office supply stores, coupons for back-to-school supplies will be delivered directly into your email box.
  • Buy used or refurbished — If a computer is necessary, consider buying a refurbished or pre-owned one. Mini notebook computers are much cheaper and convenient than regular laptops or desktops and will often serve kids’ needs for word processing, Internet, and email quite well.  Dell’s online outlet store, for instance, is currently offers a certified, refurbished notebook computer for $229.
  • Consignment stores offer great prices on clothes in good condition. These stores have become more and more popular and, in general offer higher-quality items than thrift shops.  As a bonus, if you clean out your children’s closets, and bring in nice pieces they have outgrown, you can receive store credit or cash.
  • Shop with friends — It’s worth talking with the parents of your kids’ classmates. Buying in bulk at a warehouse store and splitting the costs will save everyone money.


By working a bit harder than usual to find the best back-to-school deals, parents can teach their kids the importance of shopping with a list, budgeting, and comparison-shopping.

Following these tips, consumers may reduce their likelihood of their relying on credit cards. Unless we pay off the charges in their entirety when we get the statement, interest and fees on these purchases can make the items even more costly.  Join the four out of five Americans (85%) who have made some changes to back-to-school plans this year as a result of economic conditions.


Clearpoint works with clients, at no cost, to create a helpful household budget and to prioritize spending obligations in the most-effective manner.

Call 800.750.2227 (CCCS) to schedule an appointment or start your online session now.