By Jim Donovan


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Back-to-school shopping is not something most parents look forward to. From the crowds, to the cash you have to shell out, it can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s some advice to ease that stress and stretch your dollars.

American families plan to spend more than ever on school supplies this year. On average, families spend $697 for each child in elementary through high school.

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Jenny Martin, of the Southern Savers couponing website, says that one way to save is don’t shell out for your child’s favorite characters, as they can be triple the cost.  

“Get some stickers and let your kid decorate their own notebook with their favorite character,” Martin said. “You’re going to save a lot more money than paying for it upfront.”

While most stores will match the prices of competitors, don’t forget coupons. 

The ones you find online or in the Sunday newspaper can sometimes be used in addition to store coupons for even more savings.

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 For items like book bags and binders that tend to take a beating, Martin says paying more upfront for quality will pay off later. 

“Some of those high-end brands actually have lifetime guarantees. If it falls apart, you take it back to the store and you get a brand new one for free,” she says.

Martin says back-to-school sales beat Black Friday sales when it comes to computers and other electronic equipment.