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What Military Families Can Do to Cut Back-to-School Costs

Getting ready to go back to school can be costly for all families, but especially military families who might have to pick up and move at a moment's notice. School supplies including new clothes, notebooks and calculators can rack up a hefty bill if you don't actively work to keep costs reasonable.

According to, many military parents are planning to spend much less this fall on back-to-school supplies for their children in light of the recent economic downturn.

As found by the First Command Financial Behaviors Index, there are 10 major ways military families will cut back-to-school costs for the upcoming school year:

  • 55% will use supplies from the previous academic year
  • 52% will spend less on back-to-school clothes
  • 50% won't purchase new electronics, such as a calculator or computer
  • 45% plan to shop at discount stores
  • 38% will search for cheaper school supplies
  • 31% will purchase fewer school supplies in general
  • 19% will dress children in hand-me-down clothes
  • 19% plan to buying supplies in bulk
  • 12% plan to have college-age children live at home rather than a dorm room
  • 10% will share school supplies with other families

In addition to these money-saving techniques, military children can also receive the school supplies they need through Operation Homefront's Back-to-School Brigade, during which Operation Homefront partners with Dollar Tree to gather donations and provide backpacks full of supplies for military children. The program raised more than $2 million in school supplies in 2011 and gave 33,000 backpacks to military kids.

Here are other practical tips for saving money as you shop for school supplies this fall:

  • Start shopping for supplies earlier rather than later. They won't be picked over, and there will likely be early-bird sales at your local grocery store, Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Office Depot, Staples, Office Max or another store.
  • Keep an eye out for coupon fliers in the mail or newspaper.
  • If you see a good deal, go for it. If you wait for an item to go down in price even more, you might have to pay more for it later as the school year approaches.
  • Store school supplies you buy in an easy-to-find place. Losing supplies before school starts will cause you to have to spend even more money.
  • If you're brave enough, wait until school begins to buy school supplies. There are sure to be bargains because the stores need to make room for new merchandise.

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