Consumer: Back-to-school buys

It's back to school season, and stores this week are advertising all sorts of specials and great deals.

But if you are doing most of your shopping at just one store, you could be paying a lot more than you need to.

2News consumer reporter John Matarese shows how to shop and how not to shop, for back-to-school deals in Wednesday's Segment 2.

Hopes for big improvement 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 starting to find some great deals out there this year.

Ellen Kelley and her children are going from store to store to find the best deals. "Usually Target, Walmart, sometimes through school, Staples," Kelley said.   

But like many mothers, Kelley is watching the budget very closely this year.

Surveys say the average family with children will spend $600 this year on back to school.       

To trim those costs, we turned to a seasoned mommy blogger, Andrea Deckard, of .

"I think it's the planning beforehand that's gonna save people," she said.

Deckard's first tip: Know exactly what you need from the school's list. Then, beware high-priced character merchandise.

"The character notebooks, the characters, Justin Beiber, all these different celebrities, on the notebooks, those are back in fashion," she said.

Does your young one have a breathing heart for Bieber? His notebooks and backpacks can be twice the price. Deckard suggests limiting to just one.

"You're gonna pay more, because it's one of those character binders or folders," he said.

Another tip: Grab the Sunday newspaper for weekly coupons and shop with those. She says no single store is the cheapest on everything.

"Walmart has higher prices on a few things," she said. "Target has higher prices on a few different things."

She says Staples is great for penny deals, but other items there can be pricier.

"They have some great deals each week, where they list some items for a penny," Deckard said. "But those are limited quantities."

For more expensive items, like backpacks, she says to "use a price-scanning app, like Red Laser or Shop Savvy.

"And it gives us a list of all the different places online that have that product," Deckard said.

She also suggests holding off on buying fall and winter clothing: Most of it's not on sale now, and summer clothes are fine, she says.  

And she says not to forget Old Navy, Walgreens, Michael's or dollar stores, which can be much cheaper on basic items.

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.

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