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Time Again for Back to school Shopping

It's July, summer is in full swing, and the thought of school is far from the minds of children all across the country. Parents and merchants, on the other hand, are thinking towards the school year ahead, which is just weeks away. With the rising cost of gasoline, climbing food prices, and plenty of talk about recession, back to school shoppers are sure to be conscious of their spending. That's bad news for stores, as this is one of the most important shopping periods of the year.

Because of that, this back to school season is gearing up to be one of concerted bargain hunting, as retailers are already stocking the shelves with scholarly supplies. The sales typically begin around mid-July and last through early September, but this year retailers are preparing early for what is expected to be an unusually slow season. With a sluggish economy and soaring expenses, discount chains are expected to see a lot of business while department stores and mall-based retailers will most likely suffer. All of those grasping for back to school dollars will be pulling out all the stops to draw customers and make sales.

For those who haven't begun back to school shopping yet, it is time to start preparing for it. The extra expenditures can really strain a family budget. Doing some research ahead of time can save money that could go towards gas or groceries. Here are some tips to save cash on back to school supplies.

• Make it a Family Affair. Back to school shopping is a great opportunity for children and teens to learn valuable financial lessons from their parents. Believe it or not, most of them would like to learn more about managing money. Teaching kids about the basics of finance now will help them make better financial decisions later in life. Remember, it is never too early to start. If a child can count, they're able to learn even the most basic principles of money.

• Do Some Homework. Talk to teachers in advance in order to get a list of required school supplies. Many schools actually offer parents lists of each specific item kids will need, right down to the model of calculator. Notebooks, backpacks, pens, and pencils are the most common needs, but don't forget new back to school clothing. Kids grow fast!

• Establish a Budget. Determine in advance how much will be spent on supplies and stick to it. Many families will spend less on back to school shopping this year than they did last year. Parents, when teaching children about money, discussing a budget is one of the most important steps. Don't forget to include them so they know how much their limit will be.

• Make a List. Prepare a school shopping list in advance. When creating this list, accommodate for the material requirements for each individual class taken. When creating it, try to distinguish between "needs" and "wants," placing the needs highest on the list. Learning to distinguish between what is necessary and what isn't is another great life lesson for children to learn at a young age.

• Shop Smart. Be sure to shop around for the best price and quality. A good place to start is by perusing ads online and in the newspaper. Compare prices and use coupons or rebates whenever possible. There are many great deals available for those who are willing to look.

The annual back to school shopping spree can put a strain on the family budget. Careful and calculated spending is a necessity in today's economic conditions. With some time, research, and preparation, back to school shopping can be managed within any budget.

Julianne Alzamora has 7 years of experience as a freelance writer. Her articles can be seen in several financial websites about investing, investment strategy, personal finance and topics on real estate.

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