Aug. 18, 2011 -- intro: School is starting soon, and you know it costs money for children to be prepared with books, clothes, supplies and the just the right backpack.
The National Federation of Retailers expects that parents will spend about $600 to get their children ready for school.
Of course, you should always shop with a list – and stick to it – and look for rebates when you can. Here are five other tips from Mellody.
title: Shop Without the Kids
text: Shopping this way will decrease the urge to impulse shop. Every parent has been guilty of buying children toys they didn't need because they cried or begged, only to have them lose interest in it shortly after. Of course, the kids have to be there when you're shopping for clothes.
A special message for moms: don't let your husbands go back to school shopping unsupervised. A recent survey found that fathers planned to spend $39 more on average than their wives did.
title: Compare Prices in Newspapers
text: Back to school is worth $69 billion to retailers, and the season is second only to the holidays for being the highest moneymaker for them. So they are fighting for your money, and you can really save if you shop around. The easiest, low-tech way to do this is to look at the ads section of your newspaper and compare prices. The Internet, though, is where comparison shopping really pays off. Sites such as pricegrabber.com, shopping.com and Amazon.com all can help you comparison shop, and they also give you user ratings on products.
But before you click the "purchase" button, consider calling local retailers to ask about price matching. You might be surprised at the number of local stores that would love to have your business. Don't forget to look for free shipping offers when you're shopping online. If you're shopping for your college-aged kids, have the item shipped to their campus address so they don't have to pay extra to ship it from home to their dorm rooms.
title: Use Your Smartphones
text: About 75 million Americans now have smartphones. Retailers understand the importance of these devices, and are specifically targeting shoppers who use them. The Google Shopper app allows people to scan a product's bar code, and shows the prices for that same product at various stores in your area. Retailers also have their own apps. When you download the Best Buy Shopkick app, you will be notified of discounts of 10 to 15 percent off certain items when you enter a store.
And if you text JCP365, you will receive JCPenney's mobile back to school coupons.
title: Don't Forget About Facebook
text: People spend 700 billion minutes per month on the global social networking site, and retailers realize that, so they are running promotions on the site. Target has launched a back to school college promotion called "1,000 Likes," in which, through August 31, it will feature deals on its Facebook site. The first 1,000 people to "like" the promotion will get an online coupon for 40 to 50 percent off the item.
title: Take Advantage of Tax-Free Holidays
text: Even though states are hurting for tax dollars, 17 states are offering tax-free holidays this year. Most tax-free holidays have already passed. You're still in luck, though, if you live in the following states:
Connecticut, save 6.35 percent, Aug. 21 to 27 Maryland, save 6 percent, August 14 to 20 Texas, save 6.25 percent, August 19 to 21
If you live in New York, you're even luckier. The state will not be collecting state taxes (4 percent) on any clothing or shoe items costing less than $55, through March 31, 2012.
Bear in mind that the holiday applies only to the state's sales tax, so city and/or country sales taxes may still apply. Details vary by state, so check with your state's department of revenue website.
If your state doesn't offer a sales tax holiday, consider crossing the border to one that does, or think about going to one of the five states – Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon – that have no sales tax year-round. The saving may make the trip worthwhile.