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    You can save as kids head back to school

    NEW YORK — The back-to-school shopping season is kicking into high gear, but stores have been pushing it for a month. They’re working hard to get parents to spend, spend, spend on notebooks, computers, clothes, and other student needs.

    The National Retail Federation trade group predicts that families with school-age children will spend an average of $634.78 on shoes, clothes, supplies, and electronics, with total back-to-school spending expected to reach $72.5 billion.

    But how do you spend wisely and find the best deals? Here are a few tips from the experts:


     Prioritize: Even though it is tempting to get all of your shopping done at once, you should go in steps, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with the NPD Group. Buy essentials first, then hold off on anything that is more of a treat than a necessity — those sorts of items will most likely be cheaper later.

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    ‘‘Take advantage of sales as they occur,’’ he says. ‘‘The longer we get into the season, the more likely products are going to go on sale.’’

    Another reason to wait, in terms of clothing especially: the fickleness of teen fashion trends, Cohen says. Buy as much of that as you can in September or after school starts.

     Do your homework: Check out brick-and-mortar stores’ websites or sites like or to compare prices to make sure you don’t overpay.

    Find out when the sales on items you want are. The best deals are on the weekends, Cohen says, but you’ll have to fight the crowds.


    Store circulars are also an invaluable resource. But Matt Ong, a senior retail analyst at personal finance site, warns not go overboard comparing prices on relatively cheap items. ‘‘The best strategy is to price compare on some of the larger items, in terms of the right time and right store to shop at. It is difficult to price compare 97-cent erasers,’’ he says.

     Student discounts: Did you know that signing up with a .edu e-mail address at Best Buy could get you a $100 off a MacBook or iMac? Or that Amazon offers free two-day shipping for college students?

    There are a host of ways that students can get discounts, but it takes a little research to uncover.

     Team up with other parents: Every child has a list of school supplies, and it’s easy to wind up over buying if, say, they need four pens that only come in packs of eight. Coordinating with a neighborhood group can not only help cut out buying in excess, but you can also swap items you already have with other families.