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Ten tips

Don't spend too much for back-to-school supplies

By LAURA T. COFFEY
Published July 24, 2005


School starts next week in many parts of Florida. Are you and your children ready? The following tips can help you avoid spending too much on the clothes, shoes, backpacks, notebooks and other supplies your children will need - not to mention the technology you might get tapped to provide, such as a computer or a high-tech calculator.

1. BEGIN BY SHOPPING AT HOME. One way to get around spending hundreds of dollars per child is to avoid buying everything new. Take an inventory of what your family already owns. Have your kids really outgrown all of their shoes and clothing? Do you have an abundance of pens, pencils, folders and rulers? (Company logos on folders and notebooks can be hidden with stickers.)

2. START SLEUTHING FOR BARGAINS. Become highly attuned to clearance sales, coupons and rebate deals. When you find a good sale for school supplies, stock up for the year, not just the immediate future. Some of the best sales for backpacks, Thermoses and lunch boxes are likely to surface in September after school has started.

3. GET THEE TO A DOLLAR STORE. You might be surprised by the selection of paper products and other school supplies.

4. GIVE USED ITEMS A TRY. Garage sales, thrift stores and consignment shops typically require some legwork, but the bargains are astonishing. On certain days, some thrift stores allow you to fill a bag with clothing and buy it all for $3 or $4.

5. SET GROUND RULES FOR CLOTHES SHOPPING. Choose clothes that will give your children room to grow. Pick up extra pairs of shoes in larger sizes when you find a good sale. Solid, neutral colors and classic styles, such as simple pullover shirts, are ideal because they're easy to mix and match and less likely to look dated as future hand-me-downs to younger kids.

6. REMEMBER EBAY. If your child simply will die without a certain high-end designer brand, look for new or slightly used clothing on online auction Web sites such as eBay.com. The savings could be substantial.

7. TEACH IMPORTANT MONEY LESSONS. You could negotiate a clothing budget with your older kids, then allow them to manage it. If they want anything above and beyond the budget you've provided, let them babysit, mow lawns or wash cars to pay for it themselves.

8. BUY THE RIGHT BACKPACK. If you know your child is likely to overstuff his or her backpack, opt for a smaller one. Kids shouldn't carry more than 20 percent of their own weight on their backs. Any pack you buy should have wide, padded shoulder straps. Rolling backpacks are available - if your child will use the wheels and not just carry that extra weight around.

9. DON'T OVERSPEND ON TECHNOLOGY. Many kids and parents find that homework can be almost impossible to do these days without a home computer and access to the Internet. If you're thinking of investing in a personal computer for the first time, a budget model with 256 megabytes of memory should be plenty. Refurbished computers are another option.

10. TRACK DOWN THE RIGHT CALCULATOR. If your child needs a fancy calculator for trigonometry class, bite the bullet and invest in a good one. It will last for years.

Sources: Bankrate.com (www.bankrate.com) the Dollar Stretcher (www.stretcher.com) Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org)

[Last modified July 21, 2005, 19:07:02]


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