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by Cindy Wojdyla Cain

Joliet– High food and gas prices are forcing Shorewood mom Amy Gjerde to do some new math this school year.

Like a lot of parents, Gjerde is looking for ways to shrink her back-to-school shopping bill. She will have two kids in school this year; Matthew, 5, is starting kindergarten, and Justin, 11, is a sixth grader.

“So now it’s double,” she said of the bill for school supplies, clothes, backpacks and shoes.

She was looking for bargains and clearance items last week as she shopped with her boys; daughter, Payton, 1; and sister, Sara Harrison, at the Westfield Louis Joliet mall.

“There will definitely be less new stuff this year,” Gjerde said.

Gjerde’s frugal attitude is not unique. The National Retail Federation said back-to-school spending will be flat in many categories this year and increase only an estimated 5.5 percent overall, mostly because of spending on computers and cell phones and other electronics. College student spending for school supplies will decrease an estimated 7 percent.

Illinois retailers say things are just “OK” so far this shopping season, said Peter Gill, a spokesman for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. They’ll take OK because of the troubled economy.

“‘OK’ is kind of the new ‘good,’” he said.

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