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A back-to-school budget avoids overspending

For retailers, back-to-school shopping is big business. Analysts estimate families will spend nearly $73 billion on clothes, supplies and electronics to outfit their children for school and college. That breaks down to roughly $635 per family.

To control costs and avoid overspending, the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois recommends preparing a budget and sticking to it.

Of the total back-to-school costs, families spend the most money on apparel; the second most on shoes; and the third most on supplies, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Parents are still grappling with fewer dollars and the sluggish economy and need to take a realistic look at what their students want versus what they need,” said Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB recommends the following tips when back-to-school shopping:

• Make a shopping list. Even if the school doesn’t provide a list of things needed for a child’s school, you probably have an idea of what types of clothing and other supplies are needed. Start by checking around your home to see if you have anything left over from last year to make sure you only have items you need on the list.

• Create a budget. Do a quick price search online of items you know you’ll need.

While online, take advantage of any coupons of price discounts you may see. By knowing the prices of items beforehand, it is an easy way to know which items to cut if you need to reduce costs.

• Set up email alerts for your favorite stores. Take advantage of email alerts because they allow you to find deals right away.

Many websites have coupons, rebates and insider information on the best prices on forums and blogs. These alerts will make sure you don’t miss out on any money saving opportunities.

• Take advantage of in-store discounts. Many stores will have student and teacher discounts on pricey items such as laptops or tablets. Retailers are trying to make room for newer models in the fall, so they are eager to get rid of older models.

For more consumer tips, visit

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