$ave Big on Back-to-School Needs

It's that time of year again, when students head back to the classroom, and parents shell out big bucks for just about everything from school supplies to clothing and electronics.

Back-to-school shopping ranks as the second-largest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays. American families will spend about $600 on back-to-school clothes, supplies and electronics, according to the National Retail Federation.

That's a big dent on the family piggy bank, especially in today's economy.

But, on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" Editor in Chief Lisa Lee Freeman shared tips to help you get the things your kids need, without burning a hole in your wallet:

TAKE INVENTORY -- -YOU MIGHT ALREADY HAVE WHAT YOU NEED

First take inventory: Gather what you can at home. Most families have stashes of things they need hidden away in their home offices.

TAKE THE SCHOOL'S LIST WITH YOU AND STICK TO IT

Go with a list and stick to it: Separate the wants from the needs. The teacher's supply list is all you will need so don't waste time and money on unlisted items. Extra supplies, while they may be cute, will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty. And supplies with gimmicks, like a light-up pencil sharpener, can be distractions in class.

BUY IN BULK, WITH BUDDIES

Buy in bulk: When you do go supply shopping, go big. Notebooks, pencils, pens, and erasers are often sold in bulk. Warehouse clubs are a great place to load up, but so are online stores like DiscountSchoolSupply.com and RaymondGeddes.com.
Shop with another child's parent: Split the costs on two-for-one deals so you both save. Maybe your child needs only three spiral notebooks but there's a great deal on packages of six spiral notebooks.
Shop with a calculator: How do you know if that big 12-pack of glue sticks is a good buy over the 2-pack that is on sale? Pull out your calculator to figure out the price per unit, so you can compare apples to apples.

AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS

Sign up for ShopItToMe.com and get an alert sent to you when there's a sale on those expensive sneakers your son just hat to have or those shoes you need for work.

Items seen on the show, from ShopItToMe.com

Uniform solid polo from Children's Place, Orig. $12.50, found through Shop It To Me for $6.75 (46 percent off)

YugoRun mesh running shoes, orig. $80. Found on sale through Shop It To Me for $48. (40 percent off) at Puma.com

Nike Shox Turbo 9, orig. $56. Found on sale through Shop It To Me for $32.90, 41 percent off at Nordstrom.com

Boys Logo-Graphic Pullover Hoodies, Reg: $19.50, found through Shop It To Me for $10.00 (49 percent off) at OldNavy.com

Boys Regular Fit Jeans, Reg: $19.50, found through Shop It To Me for $10.00 (49 percent off) at OldNavy.com

Girls Distressed Super-Skinny Jeans, Reg: $19.50, found through Shop It To Me for $10. (49 percent off) at Old Navy.com

Roxy Kids Outfit, Girls Printed Hoodie and Pants, Reg: $38.00, found on sale through Shop It To Me for $21.99 (42 percent off) at Macys.com

CONSIDER REFURBS FOR HIGH TECH SAVINGS

Consider refurbs: Whether it's a laptop or a fancy graphing calculator, refurbished or opened but unused products can save you hundreds of dollars. Just be sure to stick with retailers you trust, such as Dell.com's Outlet, such as a refurbished Dell Inspiron Mini 10.

SWAP BEFORE YOU SHOP

Go online before you even head to the store: If the search of your desk drawer turns up things you no longer have use for, swap them for things you need. Call other moms or go to SwapMamas.com.

Items on the show from Swapmamas.com:

Abbreviations
EUC = Excellent Used Condition
NWT = New With Tags
NWOT = New Without Tags
NIP = New In Package

1.. Unisex Columbia Squall Jacket, size XL -- perfect for teens/college students (EUC)
2. Two pairs girl's Carter's, size 5T winter pajamas -- perfect for kindergarten age (NWT)
3. Pair of girl's Crocs with fleece liners -- preschool age (NWT)
4. Boy's long sleeved Spyder (name brand) shirt -- for middle school age (EUC)
5. Girl's orange knit sweater from The Children's Place -- preschool age (NWT)
6. Girl's Fair Isle sweater from The Children's Place -- preschool age (NWOT)
7. Various new school supplies (1st Grade workbooks, watercolors, glue) -- elementary school age (NIP)
8. Winnie the Pooh backpack -- preschool age (Feel free to take this out of the plastic and stuff it with paper for display purposes!) (NIP)
9. Pair of black unisex snow pants -- preschool/kindergarten age (great find -- these are expensive to buy each winter!) (EUC)

Groups for parents to check out for Back to School items:
* Back to School group
• Homeschooling and Educational Supplies group
• Kids Clothes groups
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