COLUMN: Back-to-school doesn’t have to break the bank | Making Cent$

The cost to send your child back to school goes up every year. Back in 2010, the National Retail Federation estimated that the average American family would spend over $600 per child per school year. I know that sounds extremely high, but when you factor in every pencil, three-ring binder, shirt, pair of jeans and backpack, it tends to add up quickly. Being that this estimate was done seven years ago, you know it is much higher now.

If you plan accordingly, you can go into this school year and save money for your family. Here are some basic tips to keep you on track:

Check around the house: If you are anything like me, when Staples has their index cards on sale for 25 cents, I buy as many as I can. Of course, my kids don’t use them all, so I will have extras left over from last year. Anytime you buy school supplies, buy them at that rock-bottom price and have a “home” for them. A big plastic tote works great, so that during the year you can grab other items as your children need them. This will save you trips to the store and keep your money in your pocket.

Consider buying used: Does your child need a specific calculator this year? Sometimes it ends up being a $10 calculator, and then other times it becomes a small investment. Check online to see if anyone is selling one used before you buy new. Think about the fact that it may get broken, lost or stolen, and paying $50 is better than paying over $100. It is only new one day.

Keep college expense down: Any chance you get to buy a used textbook for your children’s or your college classes, do so. There are many places to find the exact book needed for all kinds of classes in school or online. Some places to check out would be Amazon, eBay or a website called half.com. You can even dig a little more and rent books for the semester. Be sure to check the conditions of…

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