Tips for saving money on everything your child needs to go back to school

PITTSBURGH — As most parents will tell you, back-to-school shopping can be a lesson in patience, but with some pre-planning, your savings can add up.

Mason Ford is shopping with Mom on a summer day.

“As my son’s getting bigger, I find I actually need to try things on in the store,” said Jen Ford.

That also means Mason could have some say in what he’d be wearing and carrying to school.

“He’s becoming very brand conscious, and he wants those things that he sees the bigger boys wearing. He wants Under Armor. He wants Nike. He wants Adidas.  He wants that sporty stuff too.”

That “sporty” stuff, plus shoes, plus school supplies, plus tech can all add up!

“It’s a big deal to consumers.  I saw numbers where they are spending anywhere from 6 to 8 or $900 per student or family, " said Elaine Luther, a consumer marketing expert and business management professor at Point Park University.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all because I feel like I spent a lot just on one child,” said Jen. “I was hoping to stay around $250.  I ended up spending about $278.”

That’s just for clothes. No supplies or tech, which Mason’s school provides for free.

Elaine Luther says parents often feel intense pressure to make sure their student is ready, and retailers will feed off that.

She cautions parents not to fall for merchandising tricks. For starters, don’t rely on the back-to-school supply lists posted on the internet.

Instead, contact your child’s school or teacher to see what they’ll really need.

Next, shop your desks and drawers at home to check what you already have on hand.

If you have friends and neighbors with school-aged kids- use the buddy system.

“Let’s buy together and split the supplies,” said Luther.

When it comes to clothing, Luther says less is more.

“The big thing is to not buy everything at once.  If you could just buy a few things to get you through the first weeks of school then you can probably get deals at all the retail establishments,” she said.

For Jen and Mason, discount shopping was the key.

“We hit Target, Old Navy, and then the Under Armor outlets. I do like to use the outlets as much as possible,” she said.

Sending her 6-year-old off in style on a budget in just a few weeks.

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