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16 Tips for Better Back to School Shopping

Summer is upon us ... which means it's time to start your back to school shopping. "Wait, what?! Already?" Yes, summer has a way of flying by when you're having fun, so why not get started as early as possible.

Start early. Back to school items are available in the stores sooner and sooner every year. This also means that by the end of the summer the selection can be picked over or, worse yet, certain items may be hard to find. Rushing around at the last minute can really add stress to the entire process and the stores can all start to get pretty crazy.

I learned this one the hard way ... the busiest day at Walmart I have ever seen was the day before back to school. I hope to never do that again.

Start saving. You know it's coming, so even if you don't buy anything yet start putting money aside for the inevitable.

Get the kids involved. I know it can be a bummer for them to think about school in early summer but, even if it's just you at first, stock up on items you know the kids will need. Instead of framing it as "back to school shopping" call it "grade 4 shopping". Have them make a list of things they think they will need for the next year.

Think about broad categories you'll need to cover.

  • clothing

  • shoes

  • stationary

  • outerwear

  • lunch containers

  • lunch snacks

  • toiletries

  • technology

Check what they already have. Not everything needs to be replaced every year. Repair items that can just be repaired. Maybe siblings can even trade some items. That will leave more money to spend on what they really need and maybe a couple selected items that they just want to update this year.

Choose your budget. Decide on a rough amount that you can afford or are comfortable spending.

Make your own list. Add items that you know they actually need. There are many lists available online for each specific grade. Stores like Walmart also have lists available online and in store.

Ask other parents. Talk to other parents about where to find the best deals in your area. Maybe you could even arrange a get-together to pass down or swap items between kids.

Don't try to do it all in one day. If you're able to, make many smaller trips. One day for clothing, one day for shoes, etc. and spread it out over the summer. Trying on clothes can be tiring and after too much shopping both kids and parents can get cranky, hindering the ability to stick to the goal. There will probably be many rainy days to spend back to school shopping.

Keep your eyes peeled. Any time you are at the grocery or department store, keep an eye out for deals on non-perishable lunch items and stationary. Stock up on these things while they're on sale.

Choose a location. If they are a bit older, ask them where they would like to shop for their clothing. Do they have a favourite store? Alternatively, you could pick a few stores that you are okay with and let them decide between those.

Use coupons. Once you have decided what store(s) you will be shopping at, check out their website for coupons. Many sites offer a coupon if you sign up for their e-mail list.

Shop during off-peak hours. Avoid the rush by doing your back to school shopping during daytime on a weekday when possible. If you're busy during the day why not even go later in the evening after dinner. Friday nights can especially be quiet at the stores.

Let them decide. Again, if they're a bit older, when in the store stand back and let them tell you what stands out to them. If it's something they picked out themselves they are more likely to actually want to wear it. If it's too much, give them a set limit on items and help them eliminate down to their favourites.

Keep it all in a back to school bag or box for each child. As you bring items home put each child's items into their designated bag. A few days before school begins, you can let them open these bags to help them get excited about the upcoming school year.

Keep your receipts together. Whether it be in the back to school bag or somewhere else you designate, keep all back to school receipts together in one place. This will make it easier to make any returns if needed and help you keep track of your budget.

Happy shopping!

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