5 things to avoid buying in back-to-school season

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    Back-to-school shopping isn't kid's play. Parents now spend 42 percent more on supplies than they did a decade ago.

    That means spending this year will reach $24.9 billion, with each American family shelling out about $630 on everything from electronics to a new outfit for the first day of school, according to the National Retail Federation. With that much money on the line, retailers are rolling out deals and promotions to try to lure parents through their doors, though so far this year they've shown some reluctance to do that.

    While it's useful to sniff out specific deals at retailers such as Best Buy (BBY), which is offering $100 discounts on most computers, you should keep some rules of thumb in mind when stocking up in the next few weeks, according to Ben's Bargains, a deal and coupon site started in 2000 by a student at University of California, Berkeley. Overall, the back-to-school sales this summer aren't as attractive as they were in past years, said Kristin Cook, the site's managing editor.

    "The sales aren't that different from what retailers are doing most of the year," Cook said. "If at all possible, waiting for two weeks until after school starts" is the best strategy for stocking up on items such as new backpacks and clothes, when retailers will start to mark down their inventory. "Older kids might not have a problem with waiting and using last year's backpack," she added.

    While it might not be practical to wait to purchase smaller items such as paper and pens, parents should educate themselves about which types of bigger-ticket goods will offer better values this summer.

    Read on to learn about which items you should avoid, and which offer stronger values.