Guide to getting the best back-to-school deals

A pack of pencils won't break the bank, but expensive calculators and backpacks can, especially if you have more than one child. This year, back-to-school shopping doesn't have to leave you eating baloney for a month. Get the best back-to-school deals and stay one step ahead of the crowd with these smart tips. No more fighting in the aisles or scrambling for school shoes. Start at the stores giving the best deals.

JC Penney: Plan on shopping at Penney's? Make an appointment at JC Penney's hair salon and take advantage of their free haircuts. Kids from kindergarten to the sixth grade are eligible for this cool freebie. Save money and spend it on uniforms and clothing. This is only for the month of August and at participating stores.

Apple: Does your child need a computer? Buy a Mac and receive a $100 gift card to use on other Apple products like books and apps. If you purchase an iPad, you qualify for a $50 gift card.

Take your money saving seriously and follow these five tips!

1. Do barcode comparison shopping. From your Smartphone, download a barcode reader. Find an item you like, scan it and view the price comparisons. Save money using a free app that points you in the direction of the best deal.

2. Shop off hours and avoid the crowds. If you hate crowds, shop at places that stay open late or 24 hours a day like WalMart. Chances are you'll get fuller racks and quieter stores; maybe even some late night deals.

3. Compare prices online before going to the store. Some companies offer added incentives like online discounts and coupons. Check there first.

4. Pool online orders with friends to save on shipping. Shipping costs can take a toll on your online back-to-school savings. By pooling your orders together, you and a few friends will save money. Skip the shipping and handling altogether by shopping stores that give free shipping for large orders.

5. Join a uniform exchange. Many public and private school systems require students to wear uniforms. Uniform exchanges encourage parents to swap clothes and save money on back to school costs. Don't know where to find one? Start your own on Facebook page!