The Better Business Bureau Offers

August 14, 2012

The dog days of summer are drawing to a close and annual back-to-school specials are starting to surface. Whether you plan to shop at your favorite retail store or reuse supplies from last year, the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana (BBB) recommends sticking to a budget to avoid overspending on school supplies.

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending on children is projected to increase from last year. It is estimated that the average person will spend an average of $688.62 per child in grades K-12, an increase from $603.63 last year. The overall spending for back-to-school is expected to hit $30.3 billion.

“The excitement of a new school year can lead many people to over spend,” said Michael Coil, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. “Before shopping look at what you have in your house and narrow down what you really need versus what is still in good shape from last school year.”

The BBB recommends considering the following when it comes to back-to-school shopping:

Take inventory. There’s always that endless supply of markers, crayons and notebooks around the house. Reusing these items can save hundreds of dollars over the years. Consider repackaging by sharpening, and cleaning older, gently used items before buying new ones.

Look for the deals.  Some retailers’ back-to-school specials are available for online and in-store purchase. Make sure to check out your local source for deals. Oftentimes, retailers will put ads showcasing the special buy-one-get-one free deals, or coupled items (i.e. a backpack and lunchbox packaged together) to lure customers in. Shopping earlier offers a wider selection of merchandise and more opportunity for savings. 

Set a budget. Decide how much you are willing to spend per child, and include your children for a “teachable moment” on creating a budget. After taking inventory, create a shopping list and stick to it. This will help you avoid costly impulse purchases and ensure nothing is forgotten.

Know what your child's school allows. Schools will often provide parents with a list of required items for the school year, which can help determine what you need to purchase. These lists are also available at many retail stores and on school websites. Additionally, many schools have specific dress codes, so keep these restrictions in mind before spending money on clothes the school may not allow.

Check for refund and exchange policies. Be sure you can exchange or return items. Keep in mind some items may be non-refundable or have restocking fees associated with a return. If you are shopping online or in stores make sure to check out the Business Review at


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As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.