It's back-to-school time again. Each year around this time I like to share some of my favorite tips for saving on school supplies.

This year, the average person with children in grades K-12 will spend more than $688 per child on back-to-school supplies, up more than 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

The good news is that by shopping smarter and employing some strategies, you can cut that dollar amount.

First, spread your shopping out to take advantage of the best sales. Every year, the office supply and big-box stores in our area supply copies of the school supply lists right in the aisles near the supply displays. They hope you'll take a list and buy everything on it right then in that store. From a budget standpoint, this is the worst thing you can do. Why?

Each August, we see “crazy deals” on many school supplies: penny rulers, 10-cent spiral notebooks, 25-cent crayons and more. These sales are designed to get you in the door, and they should, they're great buys! But don't be lured in by the sale items, only to buy the rest of your child's list at nonsale prices.

Skim the sales and buy only the best-priced items. If you have a store that price-matches, save time, energy and gas by rounding up the best offers in each stores' ads, then taking them to one store for bargains.

We love a great deal, but I try to balance the quality of the item I'm buying with the price. Every year we see bargain backpacks in the $5 range, but how long will a $5 backpack last? One year, I bought a $5 backpack for my daughter. It fell apart less than three months later. For items such as backpacks, messenger bags and lunch bags, where strength and durability count, it is usually worth paying a little more.

Nearly every child, from kindergarten through high school, wants new clothes for back-to-school. But after Labor Day, clothing prices take a dip. Summer clearance sales follow, with many large stores offering coupons to stretch your savings. So, a better strategy is to shop with your child and pick out a few new items for the first week of school. Then plan to hit the stores again during the next few weeks to take advantage of lower clothing prices.

Reminder: Take note of your child's clothing inventory to know exactly what they'll need.

One last thought: This is a great time of year for small businesses to stock up on office supplies! Many of the great sales involve products that small businesses can use: printer paper, binders and tab dividers, etc.

Stock up when prices are low.

Visit www.jillcataldo.com.