Saving bucks for back-to-school

Back-to-school season is here, but for many, the budget is bare.

Back-to-school season is here, but for many, the budget is bare.

The first day of school in the Lake Washington School District — Tuesday, Sept. 2 — is right around the corner. And this year, back-to-school shopping will be a lot more difficult for many families.

I realize Redmond is perceived as a very affluent community, but that doesn’t make Microsoftland immune to our country’s economic uncertainty and increased costs.

As a matter of fact, the average United States family will spend around $594 on back-to-school purchases for kindergartners through 12th-graders, up from $563 spent last year, according to the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association.

Due to high gas and food prices along with stretched budgets, penny-pinching parents are looking for creative ways to save money.

Here are few good ways to save money during the second-biggest shopping season of the year behind the holidays.

• Go online: Shopping online should be a snap for tech-saavy Redmond residents. All the big dogs in the retail business are online and many offer significant savings if you shop through their Web sites. And some even offer free shipping. Shopping online also saves on gas money.

• Shop smart and be strong: If you are the parents of younger kids, where fashion is not the end-all, be-all, try shopping at consignment shops and thrift stores. After all, the kids are going to outgrow their clothes and shoes by next summer anyway, right?

Many consignment shops are very picky about what they take and feature a lot of designer labels at affordable prices.

So if you are willing to take the extra time searching through the racks, you may be able to find plenty of quality items much cheaper than the major retailers. In addition, the proceeds at some thrift stores, like the Children’s Hospital Thrift Store in Redmond, support a good cause.

According to the National Retail Federation, 73 percent of U.S. families will shop at discount stores as a way of stretching their dollar further.

Two other ways to save money: Stick to your shopping list no matter how hard your child pulls you toward the most expensive, trendy gear. And clip coupons, a dying art that has seen a rebirth during our economic tough times.

• Recycle and reuse: The best way to save is to limit your shopping. Find any supplies you have at home first. This means things from your home office and supplies that can be used from the previous school year. Many items from last year — like scissors, pencil boxes and unused markers — you can reuse.

I realize that these are not ground-breaking tips, but if you follow them, you probably won’t break the bank.