HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - With the start of the new school year just weeks away, WHNT NEWS 19 did some homework to find out how you can save money equipping children with everything they need to be successfull in class.
The web is exploding with some great money-saving ideas.
If you didn't make it out to buy school supplies, clothing or other things over the sales tax-free weekend in Alabama, don't worry. All is not lost. There are other ways to save throughout the school year.
Parents are planning to spend at least $50 less this year on school supplies, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
The figures show families will spend about $635 for the year, as compared to about $688 last year.
So, the race is on to find ways to save.
The first move is at home. Go through the kids' closets to see what can be salvaged from last year and set aside things that are too small. Those things can be donated to charity or swapped among friends.
When it's time to venture out to the stores, start with a place like Plato's Closet. They sell brand-named gently used clothing that costs a fraction of what you'd pay for it new in department stores. And the sales team insists the clothes are in great condition and trendy.
Back to the idea of swapping clothing among friends, consider hosting a party for your friends who have children in similar age, size and gender.
Each person would bring a set number of articles to the party and leave with the same number of pieces for free.
When it comes to the pens, pencils, crayons and notebooks, parents should put their own pen to paper before venturing down the store aisles.
Experts recommend you set a budget and stick to it. Think about what you spent last year, then try to match it or beat it.
For more than one child, put the amount of cash you want to spend for each in an envelope for each to make the point: once it's gone, it's gone.
Writing out a list of what the kids need can help you stay on budget.
Buy in large quantities while prices are low. Stock up on the things kids will burn through during the year, such as pencils, paper, notebooks, markers and paints.
Don't just go for the cheapest thing. A backpack with a lifetime warranty and spiral notebooks with plastic covers, for example, will last longer and will save you gas and money in having to replace them.
Check out Staples' offer of a Savings Pass for $10 that will get you 15% off school supplies and other things in their stores through August 31st. You can only use it one time per day, though.
You can save on food supplies for your kids too.
There's a website-- FrugalLiving.com--that tells you when food sells for the lowest prices, by the month.
For example, in August, you'll save on cereal, peanut butter and lunch meats, among other things. In September, watch out for deals on hot dogs, ground beef, buns, and salad dressing.
Consider buying in bulk and share the cost with friends.
And if you prefer to shop on the web, always look for free shipping and check out these four comparison-shopping engines to help you get the best bargains. Pricegrabber.com, Shopping.com, Nextag.com, Google.com and Amazon.com.