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Deal Sites Jump on Back-to-School Bus

Parents of high schoolers can use sites such as Groupon to save on everything from backpacks to tutors.

Online deal sites hope to capitalize on back-to-school shopping by parents of K-12 students.
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Back-to-school shoppers will spend more than $30 billion on their K-12 students this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The average parent will spend $688 between July and early September to stock up on everything from notebooks to tennis shoes for their students, the NRF estimates.

"Backpacks rip, pencils break, and children grow, there's no way around it," Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF said in a statement on July 19, announcing the results of the organization's 2012 Back-to-School spending survey. "But as they begin tackling their shopping lists, parents will make sure to spend smarter than they ever have before."

Spending smart means hitting up discount stores, searching for sales, and comparing prices between retailers. It also means shopping online. Almost 40 percent of parents with high school students surveyed by the NRF said they would turn to the Internet for some of their shopping—and online deal sites are hoping to cash in on that trend.

Groupon, Living Social, Google Offers, and other sites known more for offering 50 to 90 percent off selected restaurants, salons, and yoga studios are now jumping on the back-to-school bus.

[Learn how to rent textbooks online.]

"High school essentials could mean almost anything nowadays," says Erin Yeager, a spokeswoman for Groupon. "The [deal] assortment ranges from needs like glasses, alarm clocks, and supplies to fun items such as smartphone covers, sneakers, and posters."

The sites also offer national and location-based deals on tutoring, language classes, test prep, and music lessons. Parents can sign up to be notified via E-mail of daily deals, which typically are only offered for few days, but should read the fine print before clicking the "Buy Now!" button, says Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of Momfinds.com.

"You have to be aware that sometimes they have stipulations, like for new customers only, item restrictions, and expiration dates," she says.

Ask yourself, "Is this something you would actually buy?" and "Is this actually the cheapest you can get it?" Then check reviews of the retailer or business on Google or Yelp before purchasing a deal from one of these sites, Madhok suggests.

"Once you purchase [a deal], you usually can't get a refund if things don't go well," she says. "It's a great way to sample if you want to try something out … but you should always check a review site."

Parents looking to shave costs from their back-to-school shopping bills without stressing about expiration dates should check out sites such as Plastic Jungle, where they can buy gift cards to popular retailers at anywhere from 10 to 20 percent off the card value, Madhok says.

[Discover the five hidden costs of public high school.]

Stores also release special coupons to their Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and often give discounts to people who check in using FourSquare, a location-based app, she adds, telling parents to take advantage of their teen's social media savvy.

"Put your kid to work and tell them to start joining those social networking sites," Madhok says.

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