Shopping during back to school season can be stressful for grown-ups and kids alike.
Kids can sense that summer is drawing to a close … tipped off by all the advertising that has turned shopping for “Back to School” items a month-long marathon.
For adults, there’s an easy way to get through August without spending the entire month shopping.
I’ve polled several parenting experts with school-age children to discover their successful strategies for making the transition from summer to school smoother.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring their tips and suggestions here.
In the meantime, before you shop, follow these simple steps to minimize your expenses and maximize your efforts.
1. Start by removing all unneeded clothing items from each child’s wardrobe. Set them aside if you don’t have any other kids who can inherit them.
2. Review each child’s current wardrobe with that child and make a list of what they need for the coming year. Despite what most kids think, need and want are not synonyms.
3. Take a tour of your home looking for art supplies, office supplies and other supplies and gather any surplus items together so you can strike those things from your list.
4. Once you’ve surveyed your home: all the drawers, cubbies and closets and considered any hand-me-downs and leftovers you can incorporate, it’s time to plan your shopping trip.
5. Not unlike carpentry’s great slogan—measure twice, cut once—the more thorough you are when planning, the less time you have to spend fighting your way through the stores. You’ll also avoid needless impulse purchases.
In my work, I’ve found many stashes of unused office supplies and outgrown children’s clothing stuffed away in attics and closets for what must have been years, so unless there’s a practical reason for this (younger siblings present or planned OR specific friends and family recipients), avoid clutter by following the third leg of The Organizational Triangle®: Something In, Something Out.
For every new item of clothing coming into your home, let go of an older item. You can donate them to a local thrift store, clothing drive or other charity or see item #1 below.
1. Swap with other parents.
I suggest adults do this with their wardrobes, too. Make a day of getting together with friends and neighbors who have school-age children. The kids can play and the adults can trade gently used clothes, shoes, school supplies and sport supplies.
2. Buy used.
Thrift stores and consignment shops also offer a less expensive option than purchasing new clothes. At the rate that some kids grow, there’s a ton of clothes that have lots of life still in them.
3. Don’t get everything in one trip.
Most retailers rotate through deals every week so if saving money is more important that saving time, make it part of your routine to swing by a few key stores to check on weekly deals.
4. Price match.
Some retailers will match lower prices advertised by their competition. That way you don’t need to run around town to get the best prices—you can let your vendors do it for you.
5. Wait to buy clothes.
Some of the best deals on clothing happen after school starts, particularly since many schools now start in August. You’ll likely find great deals over Labor Day weekend if you’re willing to trade in some down time for some discounts.
6. Shop tax-free.
Many states offer tax-free shopping days in August so look online to see if your state does
7. Cash in rebates.
Rebates, which give money back to shoppers for either mailing something in or logging online, often offer great deals—you just have to send ’em in or fill ’em out. Over $500 million go unclaimed every year … so don’t leave money on the table.
8. Get what’s on the teacher’s list.
Many teachers send lists that specify the items they want their students to have and what they DON’T want them to have. Don’t wast money buying stuff your kid can’t take to school just because you or they think it’s cool.
9. Avoid popular themes and characters.
See above. The trending character or theme this week may be old news in another month. Save yourself the headache but skipping over anything that smacks of current pop culture.
10. Share the wealth.
If you’re lucky enough to have enough, consider picking up some extra supplies to donate to your kid’s school. If your school doesn’t need the help, make a gift to Kids in Need Foundation or Soles For Souls—two nonprofits that do great work for kids.
11. Don’t buy what you don’t need.
It’s not a bargain if you don’t need it. If retail therapy is something you like to do, see if you can spend more time looking at things than buying them. You can enjoy the view while keeping your wallet safely in your pocket or purse.
If you need even more tips on back to school shopping, check out the Krazy Coupon Lady—she is hard-core when it comes to saving money!
Once you’ve shopped for the coming year, it’s time to integrate your purchases into your home.
In the coming weeks, we’ll tackle returning to a regular schedule, preventing paperwork hassles and the dreaded school supplies.
Right now, you can find the home for everything you’re bought to keep your home tidy.
And remember, sentimental clutter is still clutter.
For more back to school tips, tools and strategies, check out these posts: