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The season might be a joyful time for exhausted parents everywhere, but it’s not a cheap one. The National Retail Federation says the annual ritual costs families an average of $673. Here are five tips to save on shopping while sending the kids off to school in style:

Shop every week and start early

Prices change throughout the back-to-school shopping season, and you never know when a certain item might go on sale. For bigger-ticket items that you know you need, Heather Schisler, founder of Passion For Savings, said shop early to grab the best deals. Pay attention to store circulars to make sure you don’t miss out on a discount. And know that for nonessential items, patience is OK.

Hold off on generic supplies

You can typically wait to buy basic items like pens and notebooks. “Buy the more specific back-to-school items early to make sure you get what you need — for instance, a calculator or other supplies that need to be a particular brand or model,” said Jon Lal, founder and CEO of BeFrugal. “For more generic items like paper, pencils and folders, prices will typically drop at the last minute late in the season.”

Always search for coupons

Whether you are standing in line at the checkout counter or filling your cart online, get in the habit of doing a quick search for coupons before purchasing. While you might not find a coupon to meet your needs, you could wind up cutting your bill for back-to-school supplies significantly, all because you typed a few words into a search engine.

Price match cheap school-supply deals

Doorbuster back-to-school sales tend to limit the number of items a buyer can purchase. According to Schisler, whose site offers extensive back-to-school deals, you can price match a product at other office-supply stores and even Walmart. Doing this increases the number of items you can get for those low prices.

Buy in bulk with friends

Consider the items you can buy in bulk and opt to split these purchases among friends and neighbors. For example, goods like pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, brown paper bags, sandwich bags, tissues, markers and crayons all tend to be less expensive when purchased in large quantities. Parents whose children are in the same classes or schools can pool their resources

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