Aug. 9, 2010 -- You've seen the signs and the sales -- the back-to-school rush is on. According to the National Retail Federation, this year the average American family will spend $600 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics.
What can your family do to keep from breaking the bank? Yahoo! Finance columnist Laura Rowley shares tips and tricks to cut costs.
1. Shop in Your Closet First
Before heading to the mall, Rowley says families should do their homework and go shopping in their kids' closets. That way you'll know exactly what's needed before you spend a penny.
"Do an inventory of the closet and decide on five or six, or maybe seven basic pieces that will be the foundation of the wardrobe," she said.
Then, get creative and help your kids put together new outfits based on clothes they already own. You can also take snapshots to remind your kids of these new options in their wardrobe.
2. Arrange a Clothing Swap
To inject fresh items into your kids' wardrobes without hitting the stores, Rowley suggests arranging a clothing swap with other families. Kids get clothes that feel like new, and you don't have to spend a dime.
3. Extend the Season
To save more money, Rowley also says don't give up on summer just yet. A lot of what kids wear -- like a cute summer dress -- can be used for fall just by adding leggings and a sweater.
When it comes to kids' clothes, Rowley says accessories are key.
"You can take some basics from your wardrobe and kind of freshen it up, and it's $10," she said, "rather than spending 40 or 50 on a whole brand-new outfit."
A scarf, belt, jewelry or jacket can transform an outfit and make it trendy and new.
5. Shop Online and at Discount Stores
Rowley says a good way to find deals on the brands you love is to look on eBay. Another place to find brand names for less is at a store like Marshalls, where you can get great deals on basics such as shoes.
6. Check for Tax Holidays
Rowley recommends checking to see if your state offers a back-to-school tax holiday. Sometimes, to stir up business and give consumers a break, states will charge no taxes on clothing under $300.
7. Keep Things in Perspective
Rowley says the back-to-school push is the perfect time to talk to your kids about the bigger picture.
"It's very easy to get caught up in the back-to-school spirit," Rowley said. "It's almost like Christmas shopping. This is about your child's education, and not about the fashion of the season."