School starts for Birmingham students in less than a month, which means one thing: back to school shopping.
According to the National Retailers Foundation, families of K-12 students will spend an average of $688 on supplies this year, with 85 percent saying the struggling economy continues to dictate how they shop.
So, with a lot of cash to be spent, here's our top five tips for shopping smart this fall while getting your kids everything they need for hitting the books.
Get your lists early
Make sure to check early to see if your child's school has posted school supply lists for the 2012-13 school year. Birmingham Public Schools doesn't aggregate supply lists for the district, so district officials recommend checking with your child's specific school. (Visit the district website, then find your building under the Schools tab.)
Several schools in Birmingham use 1stDaySchoolSupplies.com to post their supply lists online, including , the , and .
Think beyond denim and binders for college students
Back-to-school shopping, especially for college students, is about more than buying some new jeans and stocking up on three-pronged folders. Don't forget about these unconventional school supplies beforehand and you won't be slammed with unexpected expenses later on.
What are we talking about? Think food for the dorm fridge, personal care items like toothpaste and Tylenol and back-to-college car inspections.
Take inventory of what you already have
Just because it's a new year doesn't mean your child actually needs a new backpack — unless it has a broken strap or has been dragged through the mud recently. Check out your child's closet to see what clothes they've outgrown, then shop accordingly. The same goes for classroom supplies. Your third-grader may need new colored pencils (a hot item if you're in elementary school), but maybe he or she hasn't yet put a dent in that jumbo pack of No. 2 pencils you bought last year.
Seek out sales
The economy still isn't doing too hot, which means, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), families across the country are searching for sales during their back-to-school shopping sprees.
According to an NRF survey conducted by BIG Research, 38 percent of students and parents will be buying more generic and store brands this year while 31 percent say they will be doing more comparitve shopping online. Forty-four percent of families with children in grades K-12 say they'll be spending less this year, so make sure to hit up area discount stores (, , etc.) for sales. Hit up Mom2Mom sales or coupon Web sites such as Savings.com, MyCoupons.com and CouponMountain.com.
Don't buy everything at one time
While it may be tempting to go back-to-school shopping crazy and just get it over with, that half-inch binder on your 10th grader's world history supply list may turn into something completely different on the first day of school. Particularly with high school-age or college students, save a few of the unnecessary items for the first week of school so you know you're getting it right.