ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- It's the second busiest shopping season of the year next to Christmas; it's time for back-to-school shopping.

This year, the National Retail Federation expects families will spend about $96 on school supplies. Stores started stocking their shelves with notebooks, paper, pencils, and markers in early July, and are running sales to draw in customers.

But how does one find the best deals with the least fuss?

"You want to have a game plan," says coupon expert Kim Panak. To find the best back-to-school deals, she saysstart with your child's school supply list. Then check the adsand make a note of which store has the best price.

"If they are all over the place, big mix-and-match, don't forget you can go to Walmart or Target, one-stop shop. They can price-match everything."

Panak says remember to bring the other stores' fliers with you to prove the lower price.She says, "You go to one store, save on gas, save on time."

She suggests buying the basic supplies like markers and notepads now. Don'twait for the Tax-Free Holiday Aug. 3 through Aug.5. Instead, she says save that week for items costing more than $10.

See Also:List of tax-exempt and taxable items

"Everything you see on the table here I paid $22for. $2 was tax. For me, the biggest bang for my buck is to get their clothes, shoes, and more big ticket items for tax free," says Panak.

While you may save a bit more by waiting until the last week before school starts, Panak says you may want to reconsider that idea.She says, "The con is you may not have everything you need. Everyone else waits to the last minute. I am a pro of having a plan and shopping throughout the year."

Back-to-school time is also a good time to shop for electronics such as computers. Panak also suggests including a child in the shopping experience; they will learn about budgeting and staying organized.

Panak teaches a class on couponing. For more information, you can contact her at

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