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Breaking the Bank for Back-to-School Shopping

Back-to-school shoppers are expected to dig deeper this year after holding back and "making do" in 2011.

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Some people are being charged too much. Dads are digging deeper than moms. Six-year-olds are even cracking their piggy banks to join in.

And many others—perhaps you?—well, they haven't even started back-to-school shopping yet.

The Santee School district is heading into the first week of the new school year, which for an increasing number of shoppers signals the delayed start of back-to-school spending sprees.

According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, 3.2 percent of shoppers, up from 2.6 percent last year, planned to wait until after school started to scour the racks for clothes, shoes and backpacks.

Why the wait?

Some are hoping to catch clearance sales for deals, the survey says. But for others, the wait is about being right on time—for trends.

"With young girls, when you’re going into a big trend season, the early adopters will certainly be there, but the fashion followers will buy some stuff to start themselves off with, but go back to school and make sure they got the right color, the right fit and the right trend," Adrienne Tennant, an analyst with Janney Capital Markets, said in an interview with The New York Times.

And when parents and kids do make it to the stores, they are expected to spend more this year after making do with subpar gear amid economic fears last year, the NRF said. 

The shoppers digging the deepest? Dads.

In general, households are projected to spend an average of $688 for back-to-school. Men, however, are expected to spend about $100 or 15.5 percent more than women—$740 for men, compared to $640 for women.

(Meaning kids, your best bet for getting those expensive new shoes is asking dad.)

Kids and teens are expected to chip in, too. Teens (13-17) are expected to spend an average of $37 on school supplies, with elementary and middle schoolers (6-12) expected to spend about $25.

Here's how the projected average household's back-to-school spending breaks down:

  • On clothes: $246
  • On electronics: $218
  • On shoes: $129
  • On school supplies: $95
  • Total: $688

Those totals could rise for local shoppers, if they stop by the 20 percent of San Diego County stores that make overcharging errors, . According to the county's Agriculture, Weights and Measures department, one in five out of nearly 1,400 stores inspected charged customers too much last year. 

If stores make scanning errors, they are four times more likely to overcharge than undercharge, inspectors found. The first line of defense, county officials said in a news release, is to double-check receipts before leaving the store and try to resolve discrepancies then. If that doesn't work, shoppers can call 888-TRUE-SCAN (888-878-3722) and report overcharges.

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