Parents: Get schooled in penny-pinching before going back-to-school shopping.
"Make your kids part of the process," Swanson said. "Talk about wants verses needs and what you're going to spend for school."
Swanson said the key is to plan in advance. If you decide weeks ahead what you need to buy, you have more time to shop around.
Swanson also said to go in with other families to buy school items in bulk, or find families who can share hand-me-down items. One other piece of advice: Check local consignment and thrift stores for clothes and backpacks.