By Alan Prahl      

As students and parents gear up to return to school, costs for clothing, computers, shoes, backpacks and other supplies can quickly add up for any household. Consumers can counter some of these costs by shopping during back-to-school sales, carefully planning ahead and taking inventory of last year’s supplies before shopping.

Here are some tips to stretch your money:

Take an inventory of school necessities. Pull out their clothing, shoes and supplies for an inventory of what is still useable. Create a shopping list of needs — clothes, shoes, uniforms, books, musical instruments and other items. Determine your spending goal based on what you can afford to spend. Carry your shopping list to help you keep on track.

Develop a back-to-school budget. Take time to review how much money you will need to cover your monthly household expenses. Designate what’s left to shop for school supplies. Involve your children. Use this as a teachable moment to help them understand how to manage money responsibly by sharing the spending goal and how they can help meet that goal.

Shop for the best prices. Get the best value you can by checking for coupons and sales. Check your newspaper or online for back-to-school and clearance sales.

Limit expensive brands. You can save big money on clothes by purchasing generic or lesser-known brands. Make sure the clothes are durable and of good quality.

Pay with cash if possible. To maintain your budget, set a spending limit and stick to it! Pay with cash if possible and leave your checkbook and credit cards at home to avoid the temptation of unplanned impulse purchases.

Spend wisely. If you do use credit, limit your purchases to what you can pay off in 90 days or less. If you have more than one card, use the card with the lowest interest rate to minimize the amount you’ll have to pay back.

Remember to recycle. Consider donating clothes and other items that no longer fit your needs to a charitable organization like Goodwill. Many of the clothes that are donated are in very good condition so why not shop for your own bargains at the same place you recycle clothing. By doing so, you teach your child how recycling is good for your community and for your own budget.