How to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

Retailers are offering mega-deals, but you have to know where to look.

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Back-to-school season means new classroom butterflies and the end of lazy summer days. The transition can be made a little easier with the perfect first-day outfit, shiny new computer, or cool backpack. With four in ten shoppers reporting a smaller back-to-school budget than last year according to the new Chase Slate-U.S. News Consumer Monitor, nabbing discounts is key. Here’s a guide to some of the best deals, sorted by category:

[In Pictures: 8 Painless Ways to Save Money.]

Clothes: Most survey respondents said they planned to focus on clothes when it comes to spending less this year. Shop It To Me, the website that lets you know when your favorite brands go on sale, reports that you can snag the best deals (41 percent off) for boys’ clothing on Wednesdays and girls’ pants (63 percent off) and skirts (47 percent off) on Saturdays. On any day of the week, discounts on girls’ clothing average 36 percent off. The site also reports free shipping promotions at The Children’s Place ($5 shipping, regardless of the size of your order) and J. Crew (free shipping on CrewCuts pieces).

Shop It To Me currently features discounts on hoodies (50 percent and up), gym shorts (under $10), and uniform jumpers ($12.99)

Dozens of other children’s clothes retailers are offering free shipping for the back-to-school season; check out www.freeshipping.org for a complete list.

Computers: Mac is giving free iPod Touches to college students—as well as teachers—when they buy a new Mac through Sept. 7. Comparison website Offers.com points out that gently-used and refurbished computers that are sold through computer retailers can save you money, and also come with a warranty in case the one you buy turns out to be a lemon. Dell offers student discounts on its dedicated educational webpage, and also promises to match other prices if you find a better one on the day you buy your new computer.

Paper goods: Staples, Office Depot, and CVS are all offering deals on back to school items, from your basic pens and pencils to paper notebooks and organizers. At Office Depot, you can stop by the store to get items, ranging from crayons to pencils to folders, for just 25 cents. (Deals vary by location, so check your zip code on the website before making the trip.) Staples features items with rebates as well as some items marked down to $1. And CVS maintains an active Twitter feed that announces all of its top deals (@cvs_extra), including 40 percent off on CVS branded items.

[See Back to School Shoppers Hunt for Deals.]

Electronics: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer student discounts if you ask; in general the discount ranges from 15 to 20 percent. Just contact your provider and ask for it.

Shoes: According to Shop It To Me, you can get the best deals on boys’ shoes on Fridays (54 percent off, on average), and girls’ shoes on Tuesday (49 percent off). For free shipping (and free returns) on kids’ shoes, check out Piperlime, Endless, and Zappos. Bradsdeals’ Back-to-School page also features brands from Sketchers to Uggs.

Teacher supplies: According to BradsDeals, teachers also deserve a break – they spend a total of $1.3 billion of their own money stocking up their classrooms. To help teachers out, BradsDeals is featuring over 70 stores that provide educators with discounts, including Borders, Office Max, and Staples.

Around the web, www.savings.com makes it easy to quickly find relevant coupons through its question and answer page and dedicated back-to-school site.

Chase Slate-U.S. News Consumer Monitor Back to School Survey was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Chase Credit Card Services. The telephone survey of 1080 adults nationally was fielded between August 3rd and August 9th, 2010. The margin of error on a sample size of 1080 is +/-3% and larger for subgroups. To learn more about the Chase Slate-U.S. News Consumer Monitor or Chase Slate with Blueprint, please visit http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/chase/45421/.