Late Back-to-School Bargain Secrets

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — School may already be back in session, but that doesn't mean back-to-school shopping is behind us.

According to the National Retail Federation, families with school-age children will spend about $630 on back-to-school shopping this year, with the majority of it going toward clothing, shoes and supplies. Families with college-age students, on the other hand, will spend closer to $830, primarily on electronics and dorm room furnishings.

But what do these numbers mean to you? And what if you were too busy enjoying the last fleeting days of summer to bother with back-to-school shopping in August? Don't despair. There are still deals to be had.

1. Take Advantage of Extended Sales for Supplies and Electronics

Considering back-to-school shopping is the second most profitable time of year for retailers, many stores drag out their sales even after the kids are back in school.

The most budget-conscious shoppers get started with back-to-school shopping in July, when the inventory is fresh and the markdowns are new. For procrastinators, the good news is that shopping in early September is almost as good as July. That's when the deepest discounts can be found as retailers look to clear out leftover inventory, especially school supplies and electronics.

2. Steer Clear of Fall Clothes, But Summer and Winter Apparel are Fair Game

September is a great time to stock up on summer clothes. And it can even be a good time to pick up winter staples from department stores looking to clear out last year's coats and sweaters.

But fall clothing will be in season and at it's priciest in September. If your child really needs new clothes for fall, try to make them wait until Columbus Day, when a new round of sales will begin.

3. Find Great Deals on Dorm Room Furnishings and Mattresses

Three out of five parents say that their children influence at least half of their back-to-school purchases. College-age children can be particularly persuasive. Fortunately September is the perfect time to find good deals on college essentials like bed linens and coffee makers. It's also a great time to update other home furnishings from pots and pans to mattresses.

Before heading to the cash register, make sure you're getting the best price by using a smartphone app like RedLaser to compare prices at similar stores. You may be able to find the exact same item cheaper somewhere else, or even online.

4. Book Holiday Travel for College Students or Family Trips

September is the best time to make travel plans for the upcoming holiday season. Airfare is at it's cheapest now and will steadily climb throughout the fall. Whether you need to fly your child home from college for Thanksgiving or would like to take a family ski trip in December, make sure you get the lowest prices by booking now.

--Written by Lauren Lyons Cole for MainStreet

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