Pens, pencils, paper... poorhouse? It's back to school time and did you know that you can get what you need without blowing your budget?

Last year, most families spent about 600 bucks per kid on back to school stuff. So, the first tip if you want to spend less, leave the kids at home.  One study found parents buy twice as much when carrying their kids along.

Financial website www.mint.com recommends you buy supplies and clothes students need right away, but hold off on winter items. You're likely to get a better bargain on cold weather gear closer to the holidays.

Also, buy in bulk! Papers, folders and notebooks can all be bought at discount warehouses or top bulk supply site like USschoolsupply.com and discountschoolsupply.com.

Another tip, raid your junk drawer! The stuff you throw in there and forget about could save you a fortune. Dig for pens, pencils and other supplies for your student. In fact, almost every popular money saving website lists this as a great way to save.

Most also suggest that you buy only "quality" items. For example, a backpack with a lifetime warranty or durable plastic notebook. They may cost more now, but it means you won't have to buy replacements later and you'll end up coming out ahead.

If you have to bring the kids with you, or they pressure you to spend more, try these options:

  • Allow one extra purchase, but only one.
  • Make a list that you and your child agree on and then have them foot the bill for anything that's not on it.
  • Have them pay the difference between what you're willing to buy, and what they want to buy.
  • And finally, just refuse to give in to their request.  It may not make you popular, but it is a chance to teach smart money management.