Back-to-School Costs Up, Spending Down: 5 Ways to Save Money on Supplies

The back-to-school shopping season is upon us. It's likely your child needs some new school gear, and it's even more likely that your teen wants some new clothes. Despite an overall increase in the cost of supplies, back-to-school spending is expected to be down from last year. According Huntington Bank's annual "Backpack Index", this year, there will be a 7.3 percent increase in the cost of school supplies. At the same time, the National Retail Federation says parents and students will most likely spend 8 percent less this back-to-school season than in 2012. Regardless of your needs, here are five money saving back to school shopping tips.

Look for High Value Coupons

The other day I received a 25 percent off coupon for one back-to-school supply. If you sign up for emails for online retailers that sell school supplies, it's likely you will get some high value coupons. Be smart with your coupons and use it for a more expensive item like a backpack. After back-to-school shopping season is over, you can easily unsubscribe from the emails. You can also search for "back to school shopping coupons." Finally, for $10, you can purchase a 15 percent off savings pass at Staples to use all season long.

Look at Money-Saving Blogs

Why do all the comparison shopping yourself? Check out back-to-school and money-saving blogs for all of the best deals. For instance, "For the Mommas" is a blog that gives you the scoop on plenty of freebies and deals, including some great ones for Staples.

Have a Back-to-School Swap

Sometimes, our kids need a new backpack because their old ones are worn out. Other times, they have simply outgrown their pink Dora the Explorer backpack. One way to cut down on back-to-school costs is to have a back-to-school swap. Get together with some friends and trade backpacks and clothing. If you are not interested in doing a swap, you can check out children's consignment and resale stores.

More for Your Money

Many stores will have gifts with purchases. For instance, is currently giving out a free lunch kit with the purchase of certain backpacks. This promotion is going on while supplies last, and there are some restrictions. However, if your child needs a backpack and a lunch bag, why pay for both?

Visit Community Back-to-School Events

Often, communities will have back-to-school events where they distribute free supplies. For instance, in Knoxville, Tennessee, several local groups will be giving away free school supplies. Check your local newspaper for events. You can also check out Teen Vogue's "Back-to-School Saturday" events around the country for fun giveaways, activities and coupons.

Most importantly, it's wise to start your back-to-school shopping early. This will ensure that you can find the best sales before all the supplies are gone.