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school_suppliesBased on the results of a July National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) Financial Literacy Online poll, the calendar doesn’t have much of an influence on the majority of shoppers who are looking for the best deals on school supplies. A substantial majority (69 percent) stated that it is best to shop throughout the year, whenever there is a sale.

“Getting children ready to start the school year is an expensive proposition for most families,” says NFCC vice president of public relations and external affairs Bruce McClary. “Parents who wait until the last minute can run into some serious credit card debt if they aren’t careful.”

The National Retail Federation estimates that families will spend an average of $630.36 this year, which can be a budget buster for those who haven’t planned ahead. For those who haven’t been looking for the best sales through the year, here are some tips for saving the most before the kids board the big yellow bus.

Look for tax-free holidays – Most of these are over by the time August rolls around, but there may still be some parts of the country where shoppers can take advantage of special tax-free shopping days. Check here to see when and where those are happening.

Make use of unused gift cards – If the gift cards from last Christmas have been gathering dust, it is a good time to take them along when buying clothes and supplies for the children.

Use the list provided by teachers – School systems and teachers may publish a shopping list that includes exactly what will be needed throughout the year. Stick to the items on the page, and there is a good chance that money won’t be wasted on unnecessary items.

Avoid shopping for everything at once – Those who shop throughout the year may be on to something when it comes to saving and staying within a budget, but the same strategy can be used even if there is less than a month to go. Watch the sales and shop for a few items at a time to have the best chance for savings in every category.

When it comes to the rest of the year and beyond, start planning ahead for the best bargains on clothing, books, pencils, notepads, and all other schoolhouse necessities. Looking for sales throughout the year will give the budget a break during the last weeks of summer.