Tips to Ensure Back-to-College Shopping Doesn’t Break the Bank

James Woodson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- College students and their families will spend nearly $46 billion, an average of $836.83 per family, on back-to-college supplies this year, according to the National Retail Federation.  And the average, estimated, full-time undergraduate budget -- including books and supplies, transportation and dorm expenses -- totals $3,291.

Lynnette Khalfani Cox, author of Zero Debt for College Grads, said sending kids to college shouldn’t send parents over the financial deep end.  She shared the following tips with ABC News to help shoppers save thousands of dollars a year on their back-to-school shopping lists:

  1. For big-ticket items, prices can change minute-to-minute.  At Decide, you can track products like laptops.  And comparison sites like Priceblink, which attaches to your browser as you search the Web, can help ensure you get the best price.  To find out whether your favorite store has any sales, use apps like Shopkick.  It rewards shoppers with exclusive deals just for walking into retailers like Target.
  2. Consider buying used textbooks on Amazon and renting textbooks at Rent-a-Text for 40 percent to 70 percent off.  And for intro classes, use the website Boundless, which matches assigned books with free versions online.
  3. Finally, avoid the campus bookstore, where prices can be marked up 40 percent, and leave your car at home if you live on campus.  On average, Cox said, college students save $200 a month on gas by keeping their cars with their parents.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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