How much will you spend on back-to-school?

According to a new Visa Canada poll, "the most wonderful time of the year" for parents is also one of the priciest.

Photo by CEFutcher/iStockphoto

With my family’s Summer Olympics viewing in full swing, it’s kind of crazy to think that back-to-school is just around the corner — in retail terms, anyway. In real life, it’s still just over a month away, but that hasn’t stopped stores like Staples from touting deals on student supplies.

And a poll conducted by Pollara for Visa Canada indicates that parents have been thinking about shopping for back-to-school, too. According to the poll, the average Canadian family will shell out $677 for clothing and gear, including electronics — and 35 percent plan to start shopping during the first two weeks of this month.

Is it just me, or is that early? Nearly a third of the poll respondents said they want to avoid in-store crowds — hence the desire to do it now, and/or shop online.

No surprise, many said they plan to shop online in pursuit of lower prices and better sales. Yet only 6 percent said they’d created a budget to keep themselves on track financially.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know my policy on back-to-school: It isn’t Christmas. Before you hit the stores (virtually or in real life), take stock of what your kids already have; chances are many of their supplies from last year are still in good shape (Bronwyn is on year three with her set of coloured pencils). Then buy only what you need, and don’t feel like you have to get everything before school starts. Some teachers wait until the first week of school to send home a list of must-have supplies, and there’s kind of no point in going out and spending a mint on pencils and binders and dictionaries only to discover you have the wrong kind. And the stuff isn’t returnable because your kid wrote her name in everything.

Same goes for clothes. BTS is the perfect time to purge outgrown duds (and possibly pass them along to a younger sibling) and assess what your child might need going forward. Again, I don’t go nuts with pre-September shopping, because the first few weeks of school are usually so balmy that my kids want to continue wearing shorts and dresses. In the meantime, new sweaters, long-sleeved T-shirts and jeans would just sit in their drawers.

So that’s my plan for back-to-school shopping — what’s yours? Please share your strategies and money-saving tips with us here.