BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING

How to win at back-to-school shopping

School season is on its way once again, which means it's time for buses, PTA meetings, and back to school shopping. With crowded stores, reluctant kids, and growing lists of supplies, shopping for your kid's next school year can become a major headache. Fortunately, there are plenty of secrets to getting your shopping done with little hassle, so take a look at the tips below.

Contact teachers about supplies

When it comes to school supplies, most students don't know what they need for a class until they've had their first day and gotten a syllabus. If you know which classes your child is having for the year, you can contact the teacher on your own and get an early description of what they'll need. Some teachers also have pages on the school website that let you download the syllabus well before the first day of class. The earlier you can chase down elusive items like advanced calculators and lab equipment, the better!

Look for stock-up deals

This strategy is fantastic for parents with a lot of kids. Many school supply stores will offer discounts for items in bulk. If all of your kids need six folders each, suddenly the bulk 20-pack folder bundle makes a lot of sense. Stocking up is great for items that kids will always need for school, like pencils, erasers, and paper.

Ignore trends and stay practical

When it comes to clothes, shoes, backpacks, and accessories, something will always be in fashion. Some items might feature styles or characters that are popular but have a higher price. Your kids might complain after the first day if what you bought wasn't what most people in their class had, but stay firm! There's nothing wrong with letting your child pick certain things they like, within reason, but just let them know two things: you have a budget, and they keep what they pick.

Make use of summer sales

Stores will have sales going on throughout the year, and sometimes finding clothes and other gear a little bit earlier will make the back-to-school weeks less of a rush. Sales in the middle of summer are likely to have loose and breathable clothes and activewear for gym classes. End-of-summer sales are a good way to find clothing that works well in all seasons. For example, a short-sleeve polo will go great in the summer, spring, or fall, and it's still good when paired with your kids winter coat.

Look at online stores

Inevitably, there will be that one thing that you don't find in any stores nearby. In that case, shopping online may be better than waiting. This is definitely true with supplies and books, but can work with clothes as well. That said, if you buy clothes for your kids online, measure their sizes in case they've grown a lot over the past year.

Join or hold a back-to-school swap

Both kids and their school needs will change constantly. Every year, something you bought for them last time is going to no longer be useful, but there's a more efficient option than throwing things out. Some parents get together in swaps, meeting up to trade old school gear such as backpacks, clothes, and school supplies. If you don't see one of these swaps in your neighborhood, you could host one and draw in other parents!

Save some items for fall or late summer

When it comes to supplies for a class, not everything is going to be used immediately. For example, a science class might require gloves and goggles for lab days, but lab days don't start until September. A math class could require a TI-84 calculator, but only after winter break. Check the schedule for when certain class activities will happen and you'll likely find some items you can wait on buying. This works especially well when you look for those items in late summer or the fall, where back-to-school stuff gets marked down like crazy.

Buy clothes that will last a long time

Clothes are definitely one of the biggest expenses with school shopping, and having to replace low-quality clothing that gets damaged will add up over time. Look for clothes that are durable, and also make sure to get some items that stay comfortable and fit for multiple years. Take, for instance, boys cargo shorts. In a bigger size, these will fit well with a boys belt, and as your boy grows the shorts will still fit just fine for several years.

Kids can be reluctant or even afraid of the new school year. However, fun and easy shopping can help them look forward to their new classes, teachers, topics, and friends. Make back-to-school shopping woes a thing of the past and get everything your kids need with the tips above.

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