NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) -- With the average family expected to shell out $688 for back-to-school expenses, according to the National Retail Federation, it's important to decide if the items you plan to buy are actually necessary.
A lot has been made of a disappointing back-to-school season for retailers so far with moms and kids pushing back purchases, however, don't let that fool you into thinking lots of money isn't being wasted to outfit and arm today's student. The lull in back-to-school shopping highlights an important consumer wisdom: Sometimes the best way to save money is to simply buy less.
We asked students and shopping experts to brainstorm a quick list of unnecessary items for students heading back-to-school and college.
1. School suppliesSchool supplies are undoubtedly a must for students, but the suggested supply lists the schools send to parents have a tendency to be redundant. While it's best to stock up on supplies now if they are on sale rather than waiting mid-year when the items could be full price, just because an item is on the suggested supply list doesn't mean you need it regardless of the price. Think about it: For younger students in elementary school, the supply lists might include crayons, markers and colored pencils, but isn't buying all three excessive? Sometimes shoppers get carried away with the sales and hype surrounding the back-to-school shopping season and overbuy, which is just another way of saying shoppers overspend.
Also consider how practical some of the items you plan to buy will be in the classroom. "Big binders or Trapper Keepers are unnecessary for elementary-aged students -- and they do not fit in the classroom's desks. Also, pencils or pens that have a "novelty" aspect to them -- anything with a toy topper, etc., will irritate teachers by distracting kids," says Linsey Knerl, mother of five and blogger. 2. Shop at home Before you even head out to the stores, shop at home first. Check your closets and desk drawers to see what items you already have. And if you purchased a backpack or book bag in previous years, as long as it's still intact, why replace the bag every year? Take stock of items you bought last year and try to recycle as much as you can.