For those who still haven’t gotten around to back-to-school shopping, have no fear. Check out this edition of our back-to-school shopping Q&A series with super dad Armin Brott from Mr.Dad, who shares his back-to-school shopping expertise.
What are the must-have items on your kids’ back to school shopping list?
I can’t decide between a backpack with wheels so my daughter can carry all her stuff without doing any long term damage to her back or a much smaller backpack that would keep her from schlepping so much stuff in the first place.
What suggestions do you have for parents trying to shop with children of varying ages?
Group the kids together by age and make separate trips for each group (or individual). Older kids won’t have the patience to deal with buying glue sticks and colored markers for little kids. And the little kids won’t have the attention span to endure waiting for tweens or teens to agonize over which color mechanical pencils to buy.
What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?
They should avoid buying a lot of clothes–especially for middle schoolers and above. The real trends will be established after school starts, when the kids have a chance to scope each other out. If you’ve bought your child something that seemed like it might be cool but turns out not to be, you’ll have wasted your time and money.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?
When it comes to all those classroom supplies—binders, folders, paper, pencils, markers, etc.—parents should get together with other parents and order all those thing in bulk. It’ll be a lot cheaper that way. Better yet, contact the school and have them order all the supplies for all the classrooms, then bill the parents. Besides saving parents a ton of time and money, this approach would also help the environment by eliminating hundreds of car trips, thereby reducing pollution and fuel use. Of course, there’s looking for coupons, shopping the sales and holding out for the buy-on-get-one deals. Also go through your house before you go to the store. Chances are your child didn’t use up last year’s paper, pencils, etc. and stashed them under his or her bed. There are probably a lot of things you can buy less of or skip altogether.
How can parents and kids avoid burnout when back to school shopping?
Spread it out over a few weeks. There’s no reason why all the shopping has to be done in one day. For older kids, give them the amount of money you’d spend on clothes and let them make their own decisions—with the understanding that if they blow it all on a fancy pair of jeans, they’re going to be out of luck for a few months.
How does online shopping aide in your back to school purchasing?
It can save you a ton of time on anything that doesn’t need to be tried on (like clothes). If you’re pooling resources with other parents or school administrators (see above), buying online is really the only way to go.
How do you work out wish-list discrepancies with your kids?
Give the kids more say in the matter. Make lists of everything that’s needed and estimate how much it will cost. Tell the kids that once required items are purchased, they can spend the money anyway they like. If they come in under budget, they can keep the difference. If they’re over budget, they’ll have to dig into their own savings or make arrangements with you to work it off.
Armin Brott has been building better fathers for more than a decade. He is the author of eight bestselling books on fatherhood, has written for dozens of major publications and websites and been a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows. As a trusted spokesperson, Armin speaks on fatherhood around the country and teaches classes for expectant and new dads. Armin lives with his family in Oakland, California.