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5 Ways to Avoid Overspending on Back-to-School Shopping

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) — With parents spending an average $659 per year on school-related costs, it’s no wonder many moms and dads are looking to cut costs wherever they can – including on back-to-school items. According to coupon site RetailMeNot, the costs are so prohibitive that 75% of parents have spent less on something for themselves specifically because of their child’s school expenses. Although you’ll still have to buy a few new clothing items and school supplies, you don’t have to spend a lot to get your child started back right.

Don’t buy too much clothing – just enough to get you through the end of September

Parents of kids between 12 and 18 know that fashion trends come and go so quickly that it’s almost impossible to plan.

“I don’t think that stocking up on an entire fall wardrobe is the most economical choice or wisest choice for parents of teens and tweens – the trends are going to come and go,” says RetailMeNot senior editor Trae Bodge. “Once they get to school, they’re going to spot other trends that weren’t even on their radar over the summer.”

With that said, it’s smart to take advantage of the deep discounting of summer apparel that’s going on now.

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“Buy what’s on sale now to get through September, and that will give your child long enough to assess and decide what else they want,” she says.

By the time October rolls around, Bodge says there will be more discounting on fall clothing and parents can make additional purchases then.

“Follow the flow of those sales,” she says. “There’s just no need to buy everything at once.”

Parents of younger children who aren’t so fashion-conscious yet should still be careful buying too much, due of the danger of a growth spurt, says Jason Alderman, vice president of global financial education at Visa.

“Kids grow,” he says. “What may seem logical now may be too small come April. It’s much smarter to stagger your purchases. Not only does it have less economic impact upfront; it saves you from buying things that won’t fit by the time your child is ready for them.”

Buy supplies in bulk

Unlike clothing, items such as pens, pencils and notebooks are much cheaper when bought in bulk, Bodge says.

“I would recommend belonging to a price club like Costco or Sam’s and buying everything at once, especially if you have multiple children,” she says. “You know they’re going to go through them.”

For parents of only children, buying in bulk is still a great idea as long as you can share the bounty. Ask around your neighborhood and see if anyone is willing to go in with you on a large school supply lot.