| NEW YORK, July 30
NEW YORK, July 30 If you're paying more than 25
cents for a box for crayons, you've spent too much, according to
frugalistas like Crystal Paine, known as Money Saving Mom on the
Part of the "coupon mom" brigade that came to prominence
during the recession, Paine spends her days aggregating bargains
so that her thousands of devotees don't have to do the leg work.
Whether shopping for a second grader or a college sophomore,
families are eager to save, especially with costs rising and the
economy still weak. The average cost on back-to-school spending
for kindergarten through 12th grade is $688, according to the
National Retail Federation, up from $603.63 last year. Getting
ready for college? Expect to pay a lot more - $907, or $100 more
than families did 2011.
Here are a few tips from the pros:
1. School supplies - Shop early and often, Paine suggests.
"Waiting is the worst," she says. You want to go for the
loss-leaders that the office supply and department stores
dangle, for pennies or dollars on the crayons, paper and pens
that all students need. But you also have to be patient, because
the stores don't dole those out all at once. And definitely
don't wait to buy college supplies at the university book store.
Tara Kuczykowski, known as Deal Seeking Mom, ran the numbers
and found that if she shopped her whole list for her five kids
at Walmart or Target, she would have spent about
$23. But if she shopped the various specials and deals at all
different stores? "I would have spent $7," she says.
Paine's suggestion: price matching. "Look at sales online
and then go price match all of that."
Too lazy for that much effort? Watch Groupon or
other deal sites for a big box of school supplies.
2. Computer equipment - Major hardware purchases are no
longer just the domain of those going off to college, according
to a new survey from CouponCabin.com, which found that nearly
half of respondents planned on purchasing computer equipment
this year for their children under age 18. That could be pretty
tricky when the least expensive computers are about $300.
Shopping site dealnews.com has consistently found the time
between Black Friday, as the day after Thanksgiving is known by
retailers, and New Year's to be the best for the lowest price on
a new laptop, but Lindsay Sakraida, features director at the
site, says there are still some options for PCs in the fall.
"One great promotion is that there are back-to-school bundles,"
she says, like Dell's offer of discounted pricing along with a
gift card or XBox 360. "It's a really great way to get value."
For Mac products, she suggests checking out resellers first
to compare deals against what Apple itself is offering.
3. Other electronic gadgets - Is an eReader required?
Sakraida suggests waiting to get a Kindle Fire from Amazon
because a new version is on the horizon, and the same
goes for rumors of a mini iPad. "There's a lot of competition in
the seven-inch tablet market," she says.
As for where to shop, Paine says she usually sees the best
deals online rather than in stores. But she suggests visiting a
store first, to make sure you get the right screen size and fit
for what you need.
4. Shoes - For Paine, who has three children, it's all about
buy-one-get-one deals. "The best thing you can do is shop
online, combine a coupon code with a buy-one-get-one deal and
have the purchase shipped to the store for free," she says.
Also, if you find a style you like, she suggests, "think
ahead and buy for your children's size six months from now, and
that way you won't get halfway through the school year and have
to pay full price."
Kuczykowski says she takes her children into stores to get
measured and try on different styles, then orders online,
especially when there's not enough selection in the store. "We
went shopping for shoes and my daughter found a pair right away,
but they didn't have the right size for my son, so I ordered
everything online," she says.
5. Clothing - Sakraida's research at dealnews.com shows that
the best deals for storewide discounts, especially at stores
that cater to young shoppers, come in mid-August. These sales
are also often good for dorm supplies. "Sales are only going to
get better if you wait a little longer, although the selection
might be better earlier," she says.
Kuczykowski's tip on shopping for clothes is to do it
online. "I'd rather shop online," she says. "A lot of the stores
we like are always running out of the sizes we need. The stores
also get more crowded."
And, of course, true bargain hunters should take note that
new is not the only option, especially for pricey sports