The 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 of Western PA (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 start of a new school year is always an exciting time and it can be easy to over spend when shopping for supplies,” says Warren King, president of the BBB of Western PA. “Prior to your shopping trip, sort through the supplies you already have that can be reused and create a shopping list of only the items you really need.” 

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 entice customers. Shopping earlier offers a wider selection of merchandise and more opportunity for savings.  
  • Set a budget. Determine 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 company’s Business Review beforehand at

Start the new school year with trust with your Better Business Bureau. For more resources on shopping smart, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and Business Reviews you can trust on local companies, visit or call 877-267-5222.”