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Avoiding money pitfalls when Back-to-School shopping

Back to school savings

POCATELLO, Idaho - While most students are anxious about that first day of school, some parents are feeling the pressures of the back-to-school shopping dread mounting.

So, while many are making their lists and checking it twice, Chubbuck Elementary School PTA president Margaret Larson said parents can purchase those back to school supplies for a cost lower than most people imagine.

"If you shop the sales, crayons and glue can be 50 cents, but that can add-up and be about $30 if you're adding-in things (such as backpacks and lunchboxes)," Larson said. "But with just the school supplies, you're looking at around $10-15 per child."

Larson has two kids starting school this year in the Pocatello-Chubbuck school district and she said she usually bargain hunts for back to school supplies in August, when most stores start their markdowns.

According to the latest report from the National Retail Federation, the average family is expected to spend roughly $669 on back to school shopping this year, and $101 of that lump sum will be spent on school supplies, alone. That's a five-percent increase than the 2013 national average.

Overall, the cost of back to school shopping has increased locally as well.

While some students at the elementary school age aren't able to come to class with the needed supplies, some teachers are forced to purchase these materials out of their own pockets.

Representative Elaine Smith, (Dem., Pocatello) said she has four grandchildren going to school within the district at the moment and said she has noticed the cost increases over the years.

She said the topic of how to reimburse those teachers has come up the past few years during the state's legislative session.

"Even with their low salaries, teachers do give school supplies to kids that need it, but right now, it's hitting the parents really hard," Smith noted.

Some grade levels now even require some parents to bring the materials to class on the first day which will then be entered into a system similar to a "community pot" where the supplies will be divided-up between the students in that class.

But Larson said that usually depends on each school and each grade level.

She also advises parents to start bargain hunting with the back to school shopping lists provided at most local retail stores, which is available according to each school and grade level.

Or, you can find it on the school district website right here:

She said this way, you can purchase only what is needed, and parents won't find themselves spending an arm and a leg for pencils and paper.

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