With the first day of school a little less than a week away for most Texas school districts, retailers are offering major incentives to correspond with this weekend’s tax-free holiday to families looking for good deals on clothing and school uniforms, school supplies and new tech gadgets.

The NRF’s trends for Back to School Shopping in 2011 predicts the average American family will use what they have before they spend about $603.63 to prepare their children for a return to the classroom this year.

Although the economy has picked up a bit, recent budget uncertainty continues to promote cautionary spending, and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas recommends the following tips for this year’s back to school shopping.

• Take inventory. Start by taking inventory of what you currently have at home and creating a list of only the items your children need. Use this as your reference and stick to essentials. As the year goes on, you can always purchase items as needed.

• Stick to your budget. No matter where you shop, develop a budget and stick to it. If your kids are old enough to shop on their own, teach them to shop wisely by giving them pre-paid gift cards. You can monitor where your kids shop, and restrict their spending amounts, both in-store and online. This is a great opportunity for them to learn how to budget with a limited amount of money. Give them a list of essential items, too. If they’re successful in finding sales and have money left over, award them by allowing them to spend the remaining money on something they really want.

• Check resale shops and your friends’ closets. Several high-end resale shops and large consignment sales have bloomed in the past few years, offering good deals on children’s clothing. Remember that kids grow quickly, particularly younger ones. Checking a children’s resale shop, consignment sale or even swapping clothes with friends who have younger or older children can result in a fresh wardrobe at a fraction of the price.

• Take advantage of tax-free weekend, but don’t go over budget. Tax-free weekend in Texas is Aug. 19-21, which means families can save the tax on clothing and school supply items under $100. This doesn’t justify the need for a spending spree when you consider these savings are less than 10 percent. While deals can be found with most retailers offering big sales to promote the shopping holiday, you’ll need to shop early to avoid crowds and stress that can often lead to overspending. A list of items which qualify for tax-free status can be found on the Texas comptroller’s government website.

• Don’t open department store credit cards. Retailers will promote extra savings with the opening of a store credit card. These cards usually come with high interest rates and can easily create a mound of debt. The one-time 10 or 20 percent savings you’ll receive by opening one of these cards is not worth the debt and credit rate damage it could cause for years to come.

• Buy in bulk. Shop warehouse stores with friends and split the costs of school supplies in bulk. You can also find great deals on lunch box items, clothing and shoes at many of these retailers.

• Research and shop online. Save time and money by shopping online. You’ll be less likely to buy things you don’t need when shopping online. However, watch out for expensive shipping charges, identity theft and credit card fraud. Protect yourself by making sure the online transactions are secure, and when in doubt, pick up the phone and call the toll-free number.

• Don’t cram – you still have time. You don’t need to buy everything before school starts. Once kids see what others are using and wearing, they always seem to have additional wants and needs. Plus sales usually extend into the first month of school.

With a well thought-out plan, you and your kids will be ready for the upcoming school year while staying within the family budget.

For more information on budget or credit counseling, or one of our free classes or webinars, contact CCCS of Greater Dallas at 800-249-2227 or visit www.cccs.net.