Back-to-school shopping is back in full swing, as parents and kids hit the stores to attack their long list of school supply must-haves, fall clothes and gear. It is the second biggest consumer event of the year, with spending estimated at more than $600 per household — pretty much in line with 2010, according to the National Retail Federation.
Here are 6 ways to keep costs down this year.Shop Solo
Most parents say their children influence at least half of back-to-school purchases, according to the NRF. While it's fine to craft your list with them at home, when it's time to hit the stores, go solo. This way, you'll better avoid the pressure of spending more than what is on your list.Shop Online
If you can't leave the house alone, remember the Internet is full of great deals this season. You may even find better deals online than you can offline, says Michelle Madhok, shopping expert and CEO of SheFinds.com and MomFinds.com. MomFinds.com has a back-to-school resources available on its site. Madhok also recommends sites like eBates.com and PriceGrabber.com to locate the best Back-to-School deals on the web. "You'll save time, money, gas and you won't have any of those impulse back-to-school purchases that you'll get when you have the kids along," she says.Go Generic
A growing number of shoppers are opting for store-brand or "generic" products this year, since they can cost about 30% less than their name-brand rivals, according to Consumer Reports. Plus, will your 5 year-old really care if you bring home a store-brand box of crayons, instead of Crayola? The quality of store-brand products often rivals competitive brands.Decorate Your Own Gear
August is the hottest month to buy backpacks, according to DealNews.com. Save even further on back-to-school gear by investing in high quality items that will last at least two or three years. That may mean opting for durable backpacks with neutral colors, instead of cheap backpacks dressed with popular cartoon characters. You can still keep it fun and personal by letting your kids decorate the bags themselves with puff paint, stickers and iron-on patches.Team Up With Other Parents
Parents can be a great source of savings for each other. For example, organizing a school supply swap with friends and neighbors before school kicks off will help you recycle and save. You can also team up and save by buying items — like notebook paper, pens, pencils and folders — in bulk at wholesalers like Costco or Sam's club and splitting the costs. You'll likely need to refresh supplies midway through the year, anyway, so buying in bulk now saves you another trip.Bank on Tax Holidays
August is a popular month for statewide tax-free holidays, a period of time during which states lift their sales tax on many types of merchandise, including clothing, back-to-school supplies and computers. Florida, Connecticut, Texas and Maryland have tax-free holidays scheduled for later this month. Check out your state's web site or visit Taxadmin.org to see if and when your state will be offering a tax-free shopping holiday.