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posted: 8/19/2012 7:35 AM

Smart Spending: Finding back-to-school deals

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  • Wesley Brooks, 7, of Huntsville, Ala., has his hair cut by Melinda Gilbert at the J.C. Penney styling salon in Huntsville, Ala. J.C. Penney is running a nationwide program giving kids ages 5-12 free back-to-school haircuts during the month of August.

      Wesley Brooks, 7, of Huntsville, Ala., has his hair cut by Melinda Gilbert at the J.C. Penney styling salon in Huntsville, Ala. J.C. Penney is running a nationwide program giving kids ages 5-12 free back-to-school haircuts during the month of August.
    associated press

 
Associated Press

Stores are going all out to pull you in the door for back-to-school shopping.

That's because every retailer wants a piece of the $83.8 billion that the National Retail Federation expects Americans will spend this back-to-school season.

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J.C. Penney is offering kids free haircuts, Microsoft is giving out a free Xbox if you buy a computer and Abercrombie & Fitch is selling jeans for half-off their regular price.

Sound tempting? Put your armor on.

"They're trying to get you in the store and keep you in there and spend more money," said Lauren Greutman, deal expert at coupon website Savings.com and founder of savings site IAmThatLady.com.

In order to actually save money, you need to focus on getting the deals and avoid getting sucked into buying stuff you don't need.

Greutman suggests putting a list of everything you need and sticking to it. If school hasn't started yet, check the school's website. Many schools post a supplies list early. If not, call and ask.

Do some research before you head out shopping to see which retailers are offering deals. RetailMeNot, the coupon website, updates its site with back-to-school deals several times a day at retailmenot.com/backtoschool. If you have an iPhone, you can also download RetailMeNot's free app to keep up with new deals while you're out shopping. Experts say you can expect back-to-school deals to continue until the middle of September.

To get you started, here is a selection of some of the better back-to-school discounts big retailers are offering:

Clothing

Teen retailers are cutting prices on their jeans. All of American Eagle Outfitter's blue jeans are $29.99 for a limited time, as much as $20 below regular price. At Abercrombie & Fitch, all jeans are $39 until Aug. 21. Regular priced jeans at Abercrombie can cost between $70 and $90.

Sears and many other retailers offer discounts on clothing and shoes at stores in states that have tax holidays. (Check www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales--holiday.html to see if your state has an upcoming tax holiday.)

Kmart is taking off 5 percent of purchases that are put on layaway. But keep in mind that Kmart's layaway plan costs $5.

The free haircuts at J.C. Penney are for kids during August and only at stores that have a salon. You need to book in advance.

If you're looking for school uniforms, Gap is offering 30 percent off until Aug. 29. Kmart is taking off 20 percent until Aug. 19.

Supplies

Wal-Mart is pricing 100 items, ranging from lunch bags to notebooks, at 88 cents throughout August.

Bring in an old binder to Staples, and the office supply store with give you $2 off a new one. Staples is also selling a discount card for $10 that will give you 15 percent off school supplies until Sept. 15. It's only worth it if you expect to spend more than $70. But check the restrictions first: You can't use it on pricier items like calculators and flash drives.

And every week until Labor Day, Office Depot is selling a select number of products for pocket change. You can find scissors for 8 cents and pocket folders for a penny.

Electronics

RadioShack is offering 10 percent off to students on lower-priced electronics like power strips, batters and calculators. The discount is available at about 1,000 RadioShack locations near major college campuses.

When students buy a select Windows desktop or laptop computer from Dell, Hewlett-Packard or Samsung, they can get a free Xbox 360 video game system.

Students who buy an Apple Mac before Sept. 21 will get a $100 iTunes gift card to buy music, apps or books. Buy an iPad and you'll get a $50 gift card.

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