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Back-To-School Budget: The Struggle is Real

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So you shopped at home instead of hitting the malls. You held back on impulse buys and tried to stick to the bare minimum. You didn't splurge on college textbooks because you realized you could grab the same books for deep discounts at used bookstores and from friends. But part of the fun of starting each school year is buying new stuff. When you're out and about and ready for some shopping, use these tips to avoid stressing your wallet ... too much!

Frugal Fashion

Will the fashion police really arrest you if you don't stock up on the latest styles each fall? Buying an entirely new wardrobe can set you back fast. This year, instead of buying a collection of new shirts, jeans and the whole ensemble, get a few well-chosen accessories to complement your closet staples. Colorful bracelets and handbags don't have to be expensive, but they can add a pop of color and excitement even to outdated outfits. And if you need that runway look, choose one new piece each season that's a must-have for your wardrobe and leave the rest on the rack. Mix and match accessories to turn one new shirt into a dozen outfit possibilities!

Outlet, Anyone?

You've probably heard of outlet stores, which are basically just retail stores where manufacturers sell their goods directly to the public. But have you ever shopped at one? If there are any outlet malls near your home, school or vacation destination, give them a try, since you'll find designer brands at low prices. Tees, hoodies, shorts, heels, accessories – if you can think of it, you're bound to come across it. And because outlet stores are as competitive as regular retailers, be sure to search online for coupons before hitting the (discount) mall.

Compare, Contrast, Control

That is, control spending too much for an item from the mall when the outlet store next door has the same thing for half the price. But if you don't have time or the opportunity to wander around stores searching the cheapest buys, how can you know where the best deals are found? As always, the internet is your friend! Comparison shopping online is a powerful tool for making sure you get the lowest prices for just about anything without being swayed by savvy salespeople. And, as an added bonus, online retailers often have lower prices than brick 'n' mortar stores ... especially when end-of-summer clearance sales are in full swing.