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.
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.
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.