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5 tips for saving on back-to-school shopping

While not quite over yet, the telltale signs of summer's end are starting to make their appearances. Department stores are replacing patio furniture with pencils, pens and notebooks. The tourist season is winding down in Southern Florida. Schools have started sending out back-to-school notices and the all-important list of school supplies children will need this year.

Unlike in years past, though, this year you'll be covering school supplies solo. As a divorced or single parent, are you ready to brave back-to-school shopping?

Back-to-school shopping is No. 1 stressor

A survey conducted by online retailer Zulily found that back-to-school shopping stresses parents out more than anything else about the upcoming school year. In fact,  52 percent of parents said the potential costs of back-to-school shopping cause them more anxiety than getting kids to school on time or hoping their kids get a good teacher.

As a single parent with a single income, you may have counted on your kids' child support to cover the costs of school supplies, new clothes, new shoes and other back-to-school essentials. However, when school supplies cost parents on average between $150 and $250 per child, that support may not be adequate.

So what can single parents do? The following tips can help single parents the costs of back-to-school shopping:

  1. Talk with your coparent – If you have a good relationship with your ex-partner, work out an agreement to split the cost of back-to-school essentials.
  2. Stick to your list – It's tempting to buy non-essentials or the flashiest gadgets of the year, but recognize the marketing tactics for what they are: attempts to get you to spend more than you actually need to.
  3. Shop your own home – More than likely, you already have several empty folders, gently used notebooks and more pens than you could ever use at home. If your children balk at "old" items, use it as a teachable moment in recycling and budgeting. With money saved on supplies, you may be able to afford those expensive new shoes, for example.
  4. Tap your network – Grandparents, godparents and other relatives or friends may be more than happy to contribute to an early Christmas or birthday present of expensive shoes or a graphing calculator. Some communities organize school supply drives that you might be able to participate in. Or, create your own by hosting a back-to-school swap with other parents in the neighborhood.
  5. Check online marketplaces – Places like Amazon Marketplace, Craigslist or local neighborhood forums may be the best place to find "like new" technology or gently used clothing, backpacks, shoes and more.

With a little forethought and saving, you will not need to break the bank when it comes to back-to-school shopping on a single income.

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