kids running down the wall at schoolPencils, paper and other school supplies now occupy the store shelves where patio furniture, barbeque equipment and pool accessories once stood. That’s right – it’s back-to-school shopping season, and it’s time to get your checklist and wallet ready.

If you’re a parent who’s looking to save money and cut back on back-to-school spending this year, you’re not alone. A growing number of parents plan to do the same – spending about $40 less than this time last year.

“Each year the classroom supply lists gets bigger and bigger, and now with two kids in school the cost of everything definitely adds up,” says Nick Salinas.

According to NRF’s Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school needs, down from $669.28 last year.

Why the slight dip in spending? Nearly 80 percent of families with school-aged children surveyed say it’s because of the economy.

“Americans in general are basically in a holding pattern concerning their outlook on the economy,” says Money Crashers consumer expert David Bakke. “Some may feel more positive about it, but others are still worried, as there are concerns about the global economy (think Greece), interest rate hikes here in the U.S., and a domestic economy that just isn’t expanding as you would normally see in a typical economic recovery.”

With everything from tissues, markers and expensive graphing calculators on the list, the cost of supplies can add up fast. It may take some time and effort, but there are some easy ways to avoid breaking the back-to-school bank.

Include the Kids

Bakke suggests getting your kids involved in the shopping scene. “Once you have an idea of what is truly needed, then create your budget and make plans to take your children with you when shopping,” he says. “They probably know as well, if not better than you, what is needed and what isn’t.”

Hold Off on Some Items

“If you know your child will not be using absolutely everything on their school list during the first week, month or even quarter of their school year, hold off on buying the item until they need it, says Kendal Perez, a savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. “Also, consider setting up a swap with neighbors and your children’s friends’ parents to trade items you have in excess for items you need.”

Stock Up on Summer Clearance

“Retailers are clearing out summer clothes from dresses to tank tops, to shorts and sandals, for up to 75% off,” says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “Most kids will be able to wear their summer clothing for the first few weeks or even the first couple of months of school before you have to buy any new fall clothes.”

Always Be on the Lookout for Savings

“Because this season is such a big deal for retailers, storewide sales aren’t the only method for saving money,” says Perez. She suggests looking for coupons and extra savings on sites like Coupon Sherpa and Gift Card Granny.

Shop Last Year’s Models

Woroch says when it comes to smartphones, tablets and laptops, consumers may be able to save big by purchasing refurbished or later models. “AT&T, Verizon, Best Buy, Apple and Overstock.com are great places to find such deals with savings ranging from 30 to 60%,” she says.

Back-to-school season is the second biggest shopping season behind the holiday shopping season. So it only makes sense that this is a sneak peak of what’s to come later this year. Bakke says don’t expect much to change. “I think you’ll see this holding pattern continue, to an extent,” he says. “I feel that projected spending levels for the holidays will lag slightly behind last year, and that consumer spending will continue to show little upward progress, but it probably will not dip much either.”

Looking for help on how to make sure your kids have a successful school year? Check out these tips. Did we miss any shopping tips? Share in the comments below!

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