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Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: Mommies with Cents’ Holly Duce

Ready for the back-to-school shopping season? In this edition of our back-to-school shopping Q&A series, parenting and shopping pro Holly Duce from Mommies with Cents shares her back-to-school shopping expertise.

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What are the must-have items on your kids’ back to school shopping list?

For our family, we have a few must-have basics that help stretch the kids’ wardrobes from summer to fall and winter. We stock up on long sleeve tees and thermal shirts for both boys and girls and basic black and grey leggings for the girls. The long sleeved shirts can be worn under sleeveless dresses and short sleeve tees when the weather cools down. Leggings can be added under dresses for the same reason. Jeans for all of the kids are also a must.

What suggestions do you have for parents trying to shop with children of varying ages?

Definitely budget a little more for the older children. They’ll have more specific requests for name brands, etc., while the little ones won’t care as much. Also, purchasing better quality clothing for the older children means they’ll be more likely to be passed down.

What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?

Avoid last minute shopping, especially on weekends. If possible, start shopping mid-summer. Visit stores during the morning hours on weekdays to avoid crowds.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

Shop summer clearance for cool tees that can be layered with thermal shirts or long sleeve tees for the fall and winter
How can parents and kids avoid burnout when back to school shopping?

Do the majority of the shopping alone, without children. Buy socks, underwear, jeans — all the basics. Then plan an outing with each child separately to pick up a few things to add their personal touches and to buy shoes so they can try them on!

How much time and money should families allocate?

It’s a good idea to set a budget before hand to avoid overspending but this number depends on the needs of each family as well as their financial situation. As far as time, if you aren’t doing any online shopping, plan on at least 2-3 outings for school supplies and clothing. If you try to squeeze everything into one day, be prepared for some frustration and extra stops as you likely won’t find everything you need at the store(s) you plan to shop at.

How does online shopping aide in your back to school purchasing?

Online shopping is a huge time saver for me and it also helps me to plan and budget better. Plus, I can take advantage of online discounts and cash back from sites like Ebates and Extrabux.

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Holly Duce is a mom of 3 young children and a former nanny. She currently spends her time writing for her blog Mommies with Cents to help families save money and discover useful new products. She enjoys shopping, spending time with family and traveling.

For more updates from Holly, like Mommies with Cents on Facebook or follow her on Twitter at @mommieswithcent.

Back-to-School Shopping Guide: High School Edition

Not sure what back-to-school essentials to get your high schooler? Check out some of the top school supplies for teens we’ve listed below: 

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Credit: Good Housekeeping

Backpack: High schoolers have a lot of books and gear to carry with them, so make sure they have a good quality backpack to hold it all. We’ve looked to Good Housekeeping for their most highly rated offerings:

-       North Face Hot Shot: This North Face backpack is made with durable ballistic nylon that can survive being dropped and abraded and is water-resistant. Its various compartments, pockets and pouches keep your student organized, while the waist and chest straps provide them with extra support when they have to carry a heavy load.

-       High Sierra Loop: If your teen loses everything, this High Sierra backpack is an ideal choice. The backpack has tons of compartments for easy organization with three large areas for books and gear, two pouches and a large hook on the front of the bag for cleats, water bottles, etc. The backpack is made with durable fabric and comfortable straps—plus its affordable.

-        L.L. Bean Turbo Transit: The L.L. Bean Turbo Transit’s padded straps and lightweight material make it both comfortable and portable. The backpack comes with plenty of pockets and has a separate bottom pouch great for smelly sports gear such as sneakers or a jacket.

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Credit: Seventeen, Faye&Co., Wanelo, FashionForth, SheKnows

Accessories: Teens have the basic school supplies down by now, be sure to equip them with these high school essentials that have character:

-       Stay Organized: Get them a dry erase board to hang in their room or locker to help them keep track of homework assignments and after school plans. With all those extra-curricular activities, sports and classes, a mini planner is another great way to help them stay on top of all their responsibilities.

-       Locker Accessories: Locker hooks for hanging keys, sunglasses or jewelry are key for keeping lockers nice and organized. Get them locker lights so they can find all their supplies and give their lockers some pizazz with locker magnets.

-       Study Tools: Flash cards are a must for studying. Make your own with colorful index cards that won’t get mixed up with anyone else’s—plus the color-coding can help with memorization. Highlighting is another essential tool for studying. Highlighter tape is helpful because it doesn’t bleed through the page, doesn’t smudge and can be erased if needed.

How to Use TheFind for Eco-Friendly Back-to-School Shopping

Want school supplies that are a bit friendlier to Mother Nature? Check out the eco-friendly school supplies below and utilize our search tips to find all your green back-to-school essentials on TheFind:

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What You’ll Need

The Basics: Every year over 60 million binders are made of PVC, one of the most environmentally destructive materials. Make sure you purchase an eco-friendly binder to avoid damaging the earth. Also make sure to get eco-friendly pens, highlighters, pencils and notebooks.

Bobble Water Bottle: In addition to being good for the environment by using tap water instead of bottled water, Bobble Water Bottle encourage kids to drink water instead of soda or other sugary drinks. The bottles have a built in, replaceable carbon filter that removes chlorine and other organic contaminants for at least 40 gallons worth of water.

Solar Backpack: With all those eco-friendly supplies, you’ll need an eco-friendly way to carry them. The Voltaic Array Solar Backpack provides just that. The large, waterproof bag has enough space to carry all your books and supplies, while the solar panel on the back offers a green way to charge your gadgets.

How to Utilize TheFind When Shopping

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Narrow by Brand or Store: Know of a brand or store that has your favorite eco-friendly materials? Narrow your search results to show only items from your preferred brands or stores.

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In-App Coupons: Make sure you are getting the best deal by checking for coupons. TheFind brings coupon codes directly into the app for you—simply click on an item and if a coupon is available, a coupon icon will appear in the upper right corner of your screen. Click on the coupon to apply it to your purchase.

In-Store Price Comparison: If you’re out shopping and find the perfect eco-friendly item but want to make sure you are getting the best price, scan the item’s barcode by touching the ‘barcode’ icon to see all of the item’s available published prices.

Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: GeekMom’s Dakster Sullivan

Are you prepared for back-to-school shopping? Check out this week’s edition of our back-to-school Q&A series with GeekMom’s Dakster Sullivan, who gives us the scoop on her best back-to-school shopping tips.

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What suggestions do you have for parents trying to shop with children of varying ages?

Remember that every age is different. A preschooler isn’t going to care about what they wear to school while a ten year old will. Do the list making for the younger children and give the older kids a chance to make their own list. This is a great time to teach them budgeting and responsibility when it comes to getting what they need verses just want they want. Once you have a list for each of the children, set out on your mission and take your time. Most importantly, make your children stick to their given budget.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

In an effort to compete with online retailers, a lot of stores will price match and some will accept competitor’s coupons. Buy extra crayons, markers, paper and folders if they are on your child’s supply list, because these items are dirt cheap during back to school season and they are the items most likely to be replaced during the year.

How can parents and kids avoid burnout when back-to-school shopping?

Do it a little bit at a time. Going out all day might exhaust both your children and your patience. Doing it all on Tax Free Day (if applicable in your area) can save you some money but it will tax your patience to death. Take them out once or twice a week to pick up a few items and then do the more expensive shopping on Tax Free Day.

How much time and money should families allocate?

My husband starts doing the back to school shopping as early as July for my son’s clothes. Doing it a little bit at a time helps to ensure that the final bill doesn’t hit us all at once. Inventory your child’s supplies from last year and see what can be reused. To make sure you don’t overspend on clothing, go through their closet and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit. If they want the latest trends in clothing, make a deal that for every two items they get rid of, they can replace it with one. In terms of how much to spend, set a budget that you are comfortable with and stick to it.

How does online shopping aide in your back to school purchasing?

Online shopping is a great tool to find the best deal. A lot of stores are starting to price match Amazon, so use that as a bargaining tool when shopping in brick and mortar stores. If the retailer won’t match the price, then go with the online store instead (just make sure you factor in shipping if you don’t have an Amazon Prime account). If you have a smart phone, download Amazon’s app and use the built in price scanner to check prices quickly.

Are there any items that you recommend parents wait to buy and why?

If you have a Tax Free Day in your area, buy the most expensive items then to save some money.

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Dakster Sullivan is an all-around technology and comic book geek. When she’s not at the office being a Network Administrator, she’s hanging out with her Minecraft-obsessed 8-year old son and Star Wars-obsessed husband. On the weekends, she enjoys cosplaying for charity with the 501st and Rebel Legion costuming groups.

To learn more about Daskster, visit her personal website here. For more updates from Dakster, follow her on Twitter at @Dak903.

Back-to-School Shopping Guide: Grade School Edition

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Credit: The Good Blog

Back-to-school shopping season is in full swing! Check out the below guide of back-to-school must-haves for grade schoolers:

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Credit: Good Housekeeping 

Backpacks are one of the most important back-to-school necessities. We’ve looked to Good Housekeeping for some of their most highly-rated backpacks for kids ages 8-12:

-       FUL’s Heart Breaker: The FUL’s Heart Breaker backpack is made of durable polyester that can withstand serious wear and tear, so you can be sure it will last the entire school year. The spacious backpack can easily hold 10 pounds of school items while its curved, padded straps provide extra comfort. Plus, the backpack has a 1-year limited warranty.

-       Pottery Barn’s Mackenzie Large Backpack: Perfect for a kid that wants to carry everything they own with them to school, the Mackenzie Large backpack easily fits everything from books to extra clothes while the two adjustable straps can hold a coat or even a skateboard. It is made with a 600-denier polyester that can handle abrasion, water and being dropped. The backpack is comfortable to wear and easy to carry, making it a great choice for your over-packer.

-       FUL Superstition: If you’re on a budget, the FUL Superstition is an affordable option that won’t let you down. Though it has a more simple design with just one large compartment and one smaller pouch for all your school essentials, the backpack’s durable, luggage-grade fabric and decent storage space make it a solid option. The bag can hold 10 pounds of gear and is comfortable and easy to carry.

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Credit: Amazon, Lillibillypeace.wordpress.com, Ebay, frecklebox,

Southpaw, Amazon, Redbook, Walmart

Supplies:

-       The Basics: Kids like their supplies to be fun and bright, so search for erasers, pencils, pencil sharpeners and notepads with colorful, kid-friendly designs. Don’t forget the pencil pouches and folders to help keep them organized.

-       The Extras: If they’re old enough, get your kids a fun and simple calculator. We also recommend getting Grotto Grips pencil grasp trainers to ensure correct writing position and Crayola’s glue sticks that have a wide base to keep them from rolling off desks. Highlighters are great for studying, but kids make mistakes so get them an erasable highlighter so they can fix any highlighting errors. Lastly, put labels on all of their supplies to keep them out of the lost and found.

Summer Fun for the Family: Kid-Friendly Outdoor Activities

Don’t just encourage your kids to get off their gadgets and play outside on a regular basis… join them! Having some fun in the sun is good for everyone and an excellent way to bond with the kiddos. Check out the creative outdoor activities below and spend the day with your kids outside:

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Credit: Spoonful

Bubble Burst Paintings: It’s no secret that kids love bubbles. Add some color to their bubble blowing and they will be even more excited about them. Stir 2 tablespoons of tempura paint or 15 drops of food coloring into ½ cup of bubble solution. Tape a large piece of paper to a fence or between two trees and have your child bow the bubbles against it. Though this activity is more about the process then the finished artwork, kids will love watching the bubbles hit the paper and burst into vibrant circles and splatters.

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Credit: The Craft Nest

Hula Hoop Hideout: You and your kids can play games, read books or have a picnic in these Hula Hoop Hideouts that hang from trees. To make them, pin the top edge of a sheet to the hula hoop by folding a sheet over and pinning it to itself. Create a hanger to tie up the hideout by tying two long pieces of twine to opposite sides of the hula hoop. Decorate the hideout with tulle and ribbons, hang it from a tree branch, add blankets and pillows under your fort and your backyard oasis is complete. See here for more detailed instructions.

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Credit: One Perfect Day

Nature Crafts: Combine creativity with nature by using plants, pinecones, leaves and rocks to make artwork. You can decorate pinecones or rocks with glitter and paint or create leaf print paintings by inking a leaf with a sponge and pressing it onto paper in various colorful designs. Get as creative as you like with the help of Mother Nature’s art supplies.

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Credit: Glue Stick Blog

Ice Excavating: In this game, kids excavate small toys or objects from the ice with small tools. To play, put small toys or objects in a container such as a metal cake pan, fill it with water and freeze it. Once it’s solid, turn the container upside down and run warm water on the back to let the block of ice become loose. Give your kids their excavating tools and let them get cracking on the ice to free the toys.

Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: SheScribe.com’s Kimberly Vetrano

Don’t let back to school shopping stress you out. Check out the below edition of our Back-to-School Q&A series with parenting expert and She Scribes blogger, Kimberly Vetrano, for her best back-to-school shopping tips and tricks.

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What items do you anticipate will be trendy this fall?

My kids don’t really go with trends. They have their own individual style. I would think the “must have” latest and greatest technology will be #1 on most kid’s lists. I also think there might be plenty of apps available that help with homework, setting goals and studying for tests that kids will want their parents to download and/or purchase for them.

What suggestions do you have for parents trying to shop with children of varying ages?

Whenever possible, shop with each child individually or go shopping with your spouse, significant other, family member or friend and have them go with one child while you shop with the other. When we go back-to-school shopping, my husband takes my son to buy clothes and I take my daughter. When it comes to back-to-school supplies we can usually do that together because we just end up buying two of everything.

What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?

Parents should avoid giving into their kids just for the sake of getting the shopping done quickly. My husband and I are both guilty of doing this. When we’ve had enough with shopping and just want to go home we tend to give in to our kids more than we should which ends up busting our budget. Avoid shopping with children (or adults) who are not in a good mood. It will only make everyone else get into a bad mood and make the shopping trip drag on. Avoid overdoing it. As much as you want to get all the shopping done ASAP, it’s not fair to little ones to be dragged all over the place for the sake of getting it done in one day. Spread out the shopping over a few weeks or several days whenever possible. You should avoid thinking that you MUST get all the supplies before school starts. It’s OK to go shopping for something after the first day of school. Your child is not going to start the school year off the wrong way if they don’t have every single supply on their list.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

Purchase things like flashcards and loose leaf paper at our local dollar store. It’s the same exact stuff you can purchase in big name office supply stores, but at a less expensive price. This is especially good during the year when the big name stores are not having sales. Why spend $3+ on a pack of flashcards when you can get the same amount for a $1? Take advantage of sales and stock up on supplies you’ll need throughout the year (paper, pencils, erasers…) so that you have them on hand when you need them. Repurpose supplies. For example, three ring binders can be very expensive. At the end of the year, collect all the binders from your kids (or child) and save the ones that are still in decent shape to use again the following school year. That also applies to things like page dividers (simply replace the paper that slides into the tabs), backpacks, book socks and writing instruments. Hand down supplies from an older sibling to a younger sibling, especially things like scientific calculators, which are very expensive. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for the supplies you need. They might have some left over from their child that they can give you. Don’t go crazy with clothes shopping. Kids end up wearing what they already have in their drawers/closets after a day or two when school starts.

How can parents and kids avoid burnout when back to school shopping?

Try and buy as many supplies from one location as possible. No one wants to spend their day going from store to store. Shop at the least busy times to avoid long lines. For younger children make sure they have something with them to keep them entertained so they are not bored (teens usually have their cellphones they can play with). Try and shop for supplies early in the back-to-school shopping season and spread out the days you go shopping. Don’t try and do all your shopping in one week. If you find you still need more supplies, wait a week before going to another store to buy more supplies. A marathon-shopping spree is not always a fun thing for young children. Make sure everyone is well fed and hydrated before heading out to go shopping. Bring snacks along for little ones. Be well rested and in a good mood (that applies to everyone). Trying to shop with a tired or cranky child (or parent) can burn you out very quickly.

How much time and money should families allocate?

This would have to do with your family’s budget. School supplies can cost a bundle if you are not careful. Look over the supply list and set a limit on what you would like to spend. Give your children a limit too. If you are shopping for backpacks give your child a limit so that they don’t ask for a $90 backpack. As for time, try and spend as little as possible. Shop at places where you can get most of your supplies in one place so you don’t have to run from store to store and waste time and gas. You don’t have to purchase EVERY item on the shopping list. You can wait and make purchases for when your child really needs it. Just make sure they have the basics before school starts. That is the important thing.

Are there any items that you recommend parents wait to buy and why?

Clothing. Purchase a back to school outfit and a few extras like socks, shoes and underwear. Then hold off purchasing more clothing for a few weeks when the prices go down. Here in New York it’s usually warm in September when our kids go back to school. They end up wearing their summer clothes a lot of the time. There is no point purchasing a lot of new clothes when they just end up wearing what they already have. Instead wait a month and take advantage of pre-winter sales. Purchase clothing out of season when it’s on clearance or deeply discounted. You can usually “guesstimate” what your child’s size will be in the next few months. When my kids were little we’d buy cold weather things in the spring and summer things in the fall.

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Kimberly and her family, along with her “mini-zoo,” reside in the suburbs of New York City. On her blog, She Scribes, she loves to cover a variety of topics. Her tag line is “A little bit of this, a little bit of that.” When she’s not blogging Kimberly can usually be found spending time with her family, watching movies or simply hanging out at a local park. For more updates from Kimberly, follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest or like She Scribes on Facebook.

YoLife Yogurt Maker: Make Your Own Yogurt at Home

 

Yogurt is a go-to snack option for many families due to it’s health benefits and kid appeal.  Yogurt with active cultures replenishes the good bacteria in your digestive track and can help relieve common digestive symptoms.  When you make your own yogurt at home you’ll know the exact ingredients making it even healthier.  The Yolife Yogurt Maker comes with everything you need to make your own yogurt in just 8-12 hours:

  • Seven 6 oz. glass jars with lids
  • Small cover with starting time indicator to remind you when your yogurt will be ready to eat
  • Big cover with time indicator

With the YoLife Yogurt Maker by Tribest Corporation, the leading provider of healthy lifestyle kitchen equipment, you’ll be able to make yogurt for your whole family in individual and family-sized servings.  The YoLife Yogurt maker retails for…..:

 

Challenge Your Mini Gamers this Video Game Day

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Credit: illgaming.in

Tomorrow is Video Game Day so be sure to take some time to celebrate with your kids with a few of our favorite games below:

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Credit: Parenting.com

PC:

-       World of Zoo: This game lets players create their own virtual zoos with more creativity than other zoo-simulator games on the market. In addition to the dozens of different species available to choose from, kids can change the colors and fur patterns as well as the shapes and sizes of animal’s body parts with the “animal editor.”

-       Nancy Drew: Let your kids put their deductive skills to the test with the Nancy Drew mystery games, where players scout out clues to solve the mystery. We like the Warnings at Waverly Academy edition, where players investigate a fancy-pants prep school and Nancy Drew must go under cover. Recommended for older kids.

-       Cake Mania 3: In this baking-themed adventure game, pastry chef Jill Evans is accidentally zapped through time and space. Players must help her return home by establishing bakeries around the world, helping Jill take orders, bake and ice cakes and keep customers happy.

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Credit: NYTimes, FrugalPhillyMom, LegoWikia.com

Wii / Xbox / PlayStation

-       Skylanders Swap Force: To play this Skylander-themed game, kids put real toy figurines onto a portal to morph the toy character into the adventure game. This version is special because the toys have swappable parts, so kids can recombine them into new and different superheroes. Recommended for kids ages 10-14.

-       Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Combining Legos with Marvel superheroes, this game lets kids play as the Lego version of their favorite Marvel hero or villain. The premise of the game is that when Doctor Doom and the evil Loki take down the Silver Surfer in space by shattering his board and Nick Fury and the Marvel heroes must gather up all the pieces.

-       Disney Infinity: With this Disney game, kids can mash together all their favorite Disney characters into one game. To play, kids introduce Disney characters into the virtual world by placing toy figurines onto a portal and choosing between 2 modes of play; a linear adventure with Disney characters inside their movie world or the option to create their own world and populate it with their favorite characters.

Back-to-School Shopping Q&A: SHEfinds.com & MOMfinds.com’s Editorial Director: Jeanine Edwards

Looking for some expert advice on back-to-school shopping? Check out the first edition of TheFind’s Back-to-School shopping Q&A series with shopping and parenting expert Jeanine Edwards. Jeanine, Editorial Director at SHEfinds.com and MOMfinds.com, shares her insight on back to school shopping tips and fashion trends.

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What items do you anticipate will be trendy this fall?

Many of the fashion trends that are popular for adults will also be popular for kids. Think combat boots, distressed denim and boho styles for girls and cool graphic tees and hoodies for boys. Skip Hop backpacks are always popular for the preschool set during back to school and Skechers Twinkle Toes sneakers continue to be wildly popular among little girls.

What should parents avoid when back to school shopping?

Don’t force your child to accompany you if they don’t want to. It will only make an already stressful situation more miserable. Don’t wait until the last-minute. Shopping under time constraints always makes the situation more stressful than it has to be. Remember you’re the one controlling the purse strings, not your child. Set a budget and stick to it—don’t let temper tantrums persuade you to spend more than you can.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for saving money?

Coupons, coupons, coupons! Even if you never use coupons any other time of year, BTS coupons are usually worth the extra time and effort. Also, sign up for email alerts and follow the stores you’ll be shopping on Facebook and Twitter in the event they share exclusive deals there. Buy in bulk. There are certain items your kid will need throughout the year (think pencils, paper, etc.) so it pays to spend extra on a quantity that will last you so you don’t have to restock every few months. Don’t go crazy on items you’ll need to replace throughout the year. Items like shoes will need to be replaced at least once or twice during the school year. Don’t go crazy buying your child every style of shoes in his/her current size when you’ll only need to buy them again in a few months. Lastly, use cash-back sites like ebates.com. You’ll get a percentage of your money back when you shop through this site on retailers like The Children’s Place, Kohl’s and JCPenney.

How does online shopping aid in your back to school purchasing?

Well the obvious answer is it’s way less stressful. There are no crowds and your kid can pick and choose what he/she likes without being dragged through a crowded store. Online shopping can also offer savings. Some sites will offer coupon codes and promotions that aren’t available in stores. Lastly, we’ve found that the selection is typically more plentiful online. So, while you may have a hard time tracking down a specific item or size in a store, it will likely be easier to find online.

Are there any items that you recommend parents wait to buy and why?

It can be tempting to take advantage of all the school supply sales that happen in early August, but we recommend resisting the temptation to go all out. Sure, you can buy items you know you child will need (like pencils, loose leaf paper), but we always think it’s better to wait until to the first or second day of school to shop for supplies. Teachers often provide a comprehensive supply list so you know your child will actually need. Another thing you might consider waiting on is clothes and shoes. Because it’s still pretty warm for the first weeks of school, kids will probably be able to continue wearing summer clothes. Plus, by waiting until mid September/early October to shop for fall clothes, chances are some of it will be marked down to make room for the next season’s items.

How do you work out wish-list discrepancies with your kids?

First, it’s important to be honest with your children. Don’t promise to get them everything on their wish list if it’s not financially feasible. That being said, we like the idea of having kids earn wish list items. Not only will this reward good behavior, but it will also give you time to save up for pricier purchases.

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Visit SHEfinds.com and MOMfinds.com for more tips and trends like these and for more updates from Jeanine, follow her on twitter at @momfinds.