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.
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.