Hopes for big improvements in the economy this year have faded the past couple of months. Shoppers cut back their spending in May and June, and summer doesn't look much better.
But that's good news for back-to-school shoppers, who are already finding some great deals out there this year.
Shoppers Hope to Keep Spending Down
Ellen Kelly and her kids are going from store to store to find the best deals.
"We'll go to Target, Walmart, Staples and maybe buy some things through school," she told us.
Ellen, like a lot of moms, is watching the budget very closely this year.
Mandy Stephens also hopes to keep her spending below last years. "Hopefully less," this mom said.
Surveys say the average family with two kids will spend $600 this year on back to school.
So to trim those costs, we turned to a seasoned mommy blogger, Andrea Deckard of SavingsLifestyle.com .
Make a List, Check it Twice
Andrea's first tip: Know exactly what you need from the school's list.
Then, don't be lured off that list by higher priced character merchandise this year.
"The character notebooks, the characters, especially Justin Bieber, all these different celebrities, on the notebooks, those are back in fashion."
Those notebooks and backpacks can be twice the price: Andrea suggests limiting the kids to just one.
Find Weekly Sales
Another tip: Grab the Sunday newspaper for weekly coupons and shop with those. Sales vary from week to week, and Andrea says many shoppers make the mistake of buying everything at once to save time. It's quicker, but costlier.
Where are the deals?
She says no single store is cheapest on everything. "Walmart has higher prices on a few things," she said. "But Target has higher prices on a few different things."
She says Staples is great for weekly penny deals, but warns that other items there can be pricier.
"They have some great deals each week, where they list some items for a penny. But those are limited quantities."
Use Price Scanning App
For more expensive items over $15 or $20, like backpacks, Andrea says use a price-scanning app such as Red Laser or Shop Savvy.
"It gives us a list of all the different places online that have that product, " she said.
A Dymo label maker that she scanned with her iPhone ranged from $25 down to $17 depending where you buy it.
Wait on Winter
Andrea also suggests you hold off buying fall and winter clothing: Most of it's not on sale now, and summer clothes are fine for September, she says.
And she says don't forget Old Navy, Walgreens, Michael's, and even dollar stores, which can be much cheaper on many "basics."
Andrea lists many of the weekly deals on her blog at SavingsLifestyle.com.
So how will this back-to-school season turn out? It's impossible to say right now. But with retailers worried, they're going to be cutting prices.
And that way you don't waste your money.
What day does your child return to school? What are the days they're not in class? What supplies do they need? Check out our Back to School guide . You'll find area school districts' 2012-2013 calendars and school supplies lists.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
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