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Back to School Shopping Made Easier

By (view all posts by psutton)
at 8:58AM Tuesday August 2, 2011
under Shop Smarter

It may be August, but summer is winding down.  I know for sure because "Back to School" sales are popping up everywhere. Yay, we get to indulge in one of our favorite past times, shopping--but with our children along it's not always so fun. 

Here are some tips to make you shopping experience go smoothly with little kids all the way through teens.
It's been said a million times, but a little planning really does go a long way.  Make a list of all the things your child needs for the start of a new year including school supplies, clothing, backpacks, etc. Before you go running off to purchase everything look through your home to see what you already have on hand.  I am always surprised to see how many pencils we have in various parts of our house.  Maybe just a package of pencil eraser tops will be enough and new pencils are not necessary.  The same goes for crayons, notebooks and especially clothing.

Once you have your list narrowed down, separate it out by category and stores.  Many items can be confidently purchased online without ever stepping foot into a store, especially school/office supplies. Get great online deals for school supplies at stores like Office Depot or Staples. I still prefer to buy clothing and shoes in person, but I try not to go to the store without a coupon. I can usually find a printable coupon for Macy's and many other stores with quick internet search.

Get your children's input as well.  This is especially important with older kids. Ask them if there are any items they feel they need for school.  Talk about what clothing and shoes you would like them to purchase.  Try to be on the same page before you head to the stores.  Going to Payless Shoes with my 9 year-old daughter can be a nightmare--she's a shoe girl and wants the fanciest shoes possible. I have to be very clear about what type of shoes we're planning on purchasing before setting foot into the store, otherwise I just might walk out with three pairs of heels for her and for myself. I have a green pair of very high wedges she convinced me to buy for myself on a whim--not a good way to spend money!

So it's time to head to the store, now what? Give each of your older children a list of items they will be in charge of collecting. You can even set a price limit on the list for each item.  Such as $10 for a lunchbox. It will give them confidence and responsibility and just might save time. Of course you will have the final say on what is purchased.  Little ones should have choices, but not too many.  I let my youngest choose from a few backpacks that I select and that are appropriate for him.  I found that there is much less agony in making a decision if I am clear with what the expectations are before we get to the backpack isle.

Limit the number of stores you go into in one day.  If you know that you'll be going to Old Navy and Justice to get clothing for your pre-teen, don't be tempted to go to Target during the same shopping trip.  It shouldn't become a power marathon of shopping trips.  That's a sure way to get everyone tired and cranky and to make some rash purchasing decisions.  You've go a whole month to get what you need and that warm sweater for fall can wait to be purchased after school starts.

What are some of your favorite back-to-school shopping strategies?