Aug. 19, 2013 -- intro: American families are expected to spend an average of $634.78 on back-to-school items this year. If you're the National Retail Federation, which put out that prediction, it's good news. But if you're the mom or dad doing the spending, not so much.
And when did "Back-to-School" become another Christmas, anyway? Are souped up sneakers and sparkly tops somehow going to help our kids LEARN better? I doubt it, but hey, I'm no grinch. (I can picture the sequel now, "The Grinch Who Stole Back-To-School!") So here are 7 websites that will help your kids get back-to-school for less --AND get all of you a little education along the way.
quicklist: title: SundaySaver text: I love "dashboard" websites that give you a single place you can go to access lots of other sites. SundaySaver does that for scores of retailers. From national giants like Target to regional players like Dillards, you can quickly navigate around and see who has what on sale. Another handy feature: categories, so you can search just clothing stores or electronics retailers or sporting goods outlets --and more.
quicklist: title: MyJobChart text: If you detect a whiff of entitlement wafting off of your kids as you shop for the school year, it might be time to teach them how to work for their money. This site provides a free chore chart so you can nag your kids to do chores... without nagging them to do chores. What's neat is that they earn points for their work and you can then convert those points into cash by depositing money into a savings account linked to the site. Kids can then go right back to MyJobChart to spend their earnings (the site links them to Amazon) or to donate their earnings to charity. In other words, first this site helps you teach your children to have a good work ethic, then it teaches them the benefit of delayed gratification --saving up to buy something better.
quicklist: title: ThredUp text: This online consignment shop sells cute clothes for less. Plus your little rockstar can sell last year's clothes to ThredUp and earn credit toward this year's must-haves. Hey, it's a lesson in economics. The site says it's pretty picky about what it accepts, which is a bummer when you're selling but great news when you're buying. I checked and there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of garments that even a tween would love. (And you might find something for yourself while you're there!) Label lovers will be happy to know that "discount brands" are rejected and the brands that are accepted are labeled so you know who made what.
quicklist: title: CouponCabin text: Any time I shop online for something that costs more than, say, $10, I look for promo codes to see if I can reduce my price before checkout. I typically do it by typing "promo code" or "coupon code" into a search engine, but inevitably this brings up some lame sites that just list off sales stores are having rather than additional, secret savings you can snag. Annoying! One of the most reliable sites I've found that posts actual coupon codes is CouponCabin.
quicklist: title: KhanAcademy text: If you just got the bad news that your son or daughter got the last-choice teacher in a certain subject, getting stuck in that class no longer has to mean doom; and helping your student master the concepts no longer has to cost dollars. Khan Academy and other education sites offer video tutorials, written exercises, interactive learning and more--for free. Kids can use them for something as basic as homework help or something as brilliant as expanding their minds.
quicklist: title: KidsInTheHouse text: This website aims to be a resource for parents, but can also serve as a resource for kids. The site specializes in producing one to two minute videos featuring experts on a zillion topics. Since today's kids are a tech generation, reaching them via video could be ideal. You can create playlists and share them with your children. I scanned through the offerings and saw everything from how to handle hazing to how to combat lice to how best to tell your son or daughter they have ADHD.
quicklist: title: Mint text: No matter how much the sites above may help, a back-to-school bonanza can still cause a pinch in your purse. But if you're worried about cash flow, you don't want to spend money to monitor your flow of cash. That's where Mint comes in. The site is free. Just link it to your credit card statements, mortgage, car loan, and investment accounts. The Mint software then synthesizes that information. It categorizes your purchases, so you can see where you're spending the most. It suggests ways you can save money, like by switching to no-fee credit cards or refinancing into a lower rate mortgage. The site even sends you reminders to pay your bills on time... like all those back-to-school bills you'll be facing soon.