Back to school shopping is changing.
With schools going more high tech, the days of looking for the cheapest loose leaf binders and pencils are fading.
School supplies now cost more. But the good news is there are still plenty of ways to save.
$600 for basic supplies
The average family now spends over $600 a year on back to school, not including a laptop or tablet.
So we went school shopping with blogger Andrea Deckard of SavingsLifestyle.com, who has three school-age kids.
Andrea's first tip: No single store is best for everything.
For instance, she loves Staples for it's weekly one cent sales.
"Every week they always have a few items they advertise that are penny deals," she said. "There's pens, index cards, also erasers."
But she says on other items, Staples can be more expensive, so you need to shop selectively.
Where to Buy What
Deckard hits Walmart for low priced basics, like erasers and glue.
She goes to Target for fashion items
And she says don't forget dollar stores, especially for things like paper towels and disinfectant wipes, which many teachers now want.
And she shops online for school uniforms.
"You can typically get better deals online," Deckard said. "Say your kids need uniforms, lands end has some of the best uniforms available, and they always have amazing sales."
Notebooks and Paper
Andrea says notebooks and paper folders all end up dog eared, so cheaper store brands are fine, especially at office supply stores, as they won't sell junk.
"I am totally fine with the generic items when it comes to paper products," Deckard said. "The only time I will buy a name brand product is when they have coupons available."
Andrea says one area she will not go cheap is backpacks.
Bargain backpacks may not make it to Christmas, she says.
"I'm a big proponent of quality over quantity when it comes to backpacks. We have used the same backpack going on 5 years now."
Another tip? At LL Bean, they will replace backpacks free forever if they break. You won't get that guarantee on a discount store model.
But you may not need a backpack at all this year, she says.
The newest trend, Deckard says, are small gym sacks instead of a backpack, because kids are doing carrying fewer big books, doing more and more work online.
Locker Organizers? Maybe
Locker organizers are tempting, but Deckard says don't buy them until you know how much locker space your kids get.
"We actually have notices from teachers at our school that ask us to not bring us this kind of stuff, cause there's no room."
Laptop Deals Everywhere
Finally, Deckard says this is the best time of year outside Black Friday to buy a laptop.
"Watch for the different sales at all the stores, specifically the office supply stores, even amazon, finding some really good prices."
In addition, Microsoft in August has deals where you get a free Office Suite with the purchase of a laptop. Apple is offering students free iTunes gift card with MacBook purchases.
Deckard points out it's a great time for buying electronics and office supplies, even if you don't have school age kids.
That way you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
"Like" John Matarese on Facebook
Follow John on Twitter (@DWYM)