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How to make the most of back-to-school sales

The back-to-school shopping season is one of the biggest shopping seasons of the year. Consumer savings expert Lauren Greutman joins TODAY to share all the tips for finding the best deals available.
/ Source: TODAY

The back-to-school shopping season is one of the biggest shopping seasons of the year. According to a National Retail Federation survey, families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $687.72 per child, for a total of $29.5 billion. That's an 8 percent increase from last year’s total of $27.3 billion – and last-minute buying is on the rise.

Flipp app savings expert Lauren Greutman joined TODAY to share some useful tips to tackle back-to-school shopping while saving money:

See what you already have in your home.

Greutman says go through your home and see what you still have left over from last year. She usually puts her kids school supplies from the previous year in a Tupperware bin when she cleans out their backpacks on the last day of school.

Combine back-to-school supply lists.

Check your children's back-to-school supply lists and make a general one where you combine what they need. Greutman suggests this will help inform how many of each item is needed so that you can look for bulk-sized packages to split up (glue sticks or pencils for example).

Use money-saving tools.

The Flipp app puts all of the local weekly ads at your fingertips to make it easy to find the best deals on back-to-school supplies, electronics and lunches. Greutman recommends checking sites like PriceGrabber, which shows product price histories and gives you price alerts to help you determine whether to buy big-ticket items like computers now or later. She says a simple Google search using their shopping tab is another option.

Make a budget and stick to it.

Greutman says if you’re shopping with your kid, give him or her a budget! Also keep in mind that the key to saving is to avoid overspending on extras.

Do I have to buy everything now, or can I wait?

While it may feel like you need to buy everything back-to-school related for your kids now, there are some things you can wait on until there are better deals!

First, Greutman says you can check out all the free tax weekends on the Flipp app; they vary by state, but they’re great dates to keep in mind as you shop for back to school.

She stresses the items you should buy now: school supplies like paper, pens and backpacks. All of the best sales for these items are going on right now as retailers try to get you into their stores to spend.

Also, just because fall is right around the corner doesn’t mean you should stop buying summer clothes. Greutman says there are some great deals on warm-weather clothing as the season comes to an end. She recommends checking out end-of-season sales at Walmart, Target and JCPenney.

So, what can you buy later? The bulk of your clothing, especially items like jeans. Greutman adds that kids are growing and might decide what they buy now is not cool later.

You can also wait to purchase laptops, iPads, and iPhones. Apple releases their new products in September, so you can likely find a better deal on one of their products in October or November. Hold on purchasing printers as well, Greutman says there will be terrific deals on these items around Black Friday.