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Back to School Shopping Tips

How to make your trip to the mall as pain-free as possible
By Kerrie Lee Brown
It’s that time of year again… cottages close for the season, summer camps come to an end, vacations become fond memories… and as you reflect over the past couple of months you notice that all of a sudden your priorities start to shift. Instead of making sure the kids are wearing their protective sunscreen or life jackets, you make sure they’re wearing the perfect backpack or outfit for the first day of school.

When it comes to back-to-school shopping, there are several things to keep in mind. The kids are a year older; they’re a grade higher (which means they may worry more about what their peers think); and they’re probably a foot taller. Here’s a quick and easy guide for moms looking to make this year’s trip to the mall as painless as possible. Have fun!
  1.  Make a list
  As far as I can remember, I’ve always been a planner. To-do lists are my middle name. So like all things in my life, I have to plan my back-to-school shopping trip to ensure it’s an easy, fast and fun experience – after all, it is shopping! The number one rule to back-to-school shopping success is your list. If you don’t bring a list that has been well thought out, mulled over and double-checked, then you’re destined to go off track and buy things you don’t need. I recommend starting your list at least 1-2 weeks before your excursion so you can add to it every time you think of something the kids may need. From new clothes and shoes to binders, pens, pencils, erasers, and backpacks – your list can get long pretty fast and you don’t want to forget anything when you finally make the trek.
  2. Check it twice
  Be prepared and always check your list twice. Every time you think of something you need, or the kids say “mom I really want so-and-so for school” after seeing a commercial on television, add it to the list and remember you can delete items before you go. Oh, and don’t forget your list when you go shopping because it can be a nightmare going from memory.
  3. Set a budget
  No woman likes to hear the word “budget” when you’re shopping, but it really is an essential tool to ensure your shopping trip is successful. If there’s no budget then there are no boundaries, and that’s not good. The last thing you want is to overspend on clothes that the kids are going to grow out of by Christmas anyways and shoes that are going to go out of style by Thanksgiving. My advice is to come up with a budget before you finalize your list and venture out to the shops. Remember that huge list you’ve been adding to over the last couple weeks? Go back through it with a red pen or highlighter and mark the necessary items and the nice-to-haves. Who knows, maybe some things will be on sale and you’ll have some extra cash to spend on a few additional items for your good boy or girl. The key is to get in and get out efficiently and that means under your target dollars allotted – so make it your personal mission to stay on target moms!
  4. Start early
  Back-to-school shopping is like a sport. Or rather it can be for some moms willing to take the challenge, set the stakes, stick to the goal, and come out a winner! After all, retail stores often begin sales early in the hopes of gaining customers’ attention – so remember competition is fierce on the racks and on the sales floor. Most stores will have some school supplies like binders, pens, paper, notebooks and crayons at prices below normal wholesale just to get you in the door. Visit these stores first and buy only the items on sale. In fact, ask other moms where they shop and hey mom, do your homework on where to shop too. Also check out flyers and discount papers prior to your shopping trip so you’re armed with the arsenal you need to make it a successful day.
  5. Cost-saving tips – school supplies
  The key here is to shop at multiple stores to save money because each store has its own sales. Or if you’re lucky, perhaps one store will give you the same discount as another store which has become commonplace in the retail industry the last couple of years. Comparing prices can get you a long way in this economy. Also resist the urge to purchase everything you need in one visit or in one store. You will most likely find the same item or very similar for less if you take the time to shop at discount stores. Look for in-store specials and check clearance racks and sale aisles for the best deals. Coupons and promotional codes can also provide considerable savings. The key is to combine the coupon with existing sales prices, which may result in doubling your savings. Have you seen the TV show Couponing? You can save a bundle! Always check for stores that may already offer the item on sale.
  6. Cost-saving tips – clothes
  It’s a fact, kids grow up very fast and their clothes get smaller. Always keep in mind that your child is most likely going to go up another two sizes within the same school year and potentially the same in shoe size. So again, be prepared. Shop at stores that cater to your child’s needs, and not just based on what styles they offer. If you have tweens who are picky about what they wear, make sure to shop at stores that are age-appropriate – put yourself in their shoes (excuse the pun) and buy what you think your child will like, but don’t’ overspend as these stores can be pricey. When buying shoes, it may be best to take your child with you before you purchase to get a sense of what styles they like and their size. It is advised to get one size bigger to accommodate growing feet and movement within the shoes during activity. Depending on your child’s growth rate, you will want to get apparel that has enough room for them to grow into within a month (as long as it’s not falling off them in the meantime however) or that will last at least a few months.
  7. Time-saving tips – what’s old is new again
  Never emptied last year’s backpack? Then check it before you hit the stores because you’ll be amazed at what you find. You may be able to reuse some old supplies that are still in good condition. Those colored pencils that were only used once don’t need to be replaced – just sharpen them and they’re just like new. Perhaps your child’s favorite backpack is fine too with a little love and care – just take the time to fix or repair and cover old notebooks that can be reused. Also, with most families on year-long-budgets these days, hand-me-downs are invaluable. You’d be surprised how many kids love wearing their “cool” older brother’s clothes – or even their baseball caps or sports bags. They’re little gems, which will teach them the value of being resourceful and appreciative of their siblings’ stuff.
  8. Remember it’s cold and flu season
  Back to school means back to classrooms filled with runny noses and stuffy heads. Your kids probably spent the entire summer outdoors and now they’re going to be in close quarters with several other kids again, so you have to prepared that they could be bringing  home a multitude of colds and flu viruses. Pick up your bottle of COLD-FX during your back to school shopping trips and use it as a daily defense during this high-risk time. Any adult in your household will benefit from COLD-FX’s clinically proven immune boosting properties. Another tip to start things off right is when you actually go shopping. Make sure to bring a sanitary wipe to swab the shopping cart and protect yourself or your little ones from unwanted germs and viruses. A study conducted by the University of Arizona’s Environmental Research Lab (sponsored by Clorox), showed that grocery carts ranked third in a long list of nasty surfaces, behind only playground equipment and public transportation arm rests.
  9. Go solo
   Any distractions such as kids, your spouse, or even friends can easily make your trip longer (and often more expensive) than necessary. Back-to-school supplies are often marketed to kids, so we want to avoid any unnecessary purchases – remember your budget! However, some of us may not always be able to get away from the brood for an hour, so in this case, make sure to stick to your “list” and don’t let others persuade you to buy additional items. After all, merchandisers are tricky and craft their displays to attract kids into their stores – and they keep them by playing certain types of music. Don’t be fooled! Stick to the plan and fly solo this time around.
In closing
As a busy mom of two rambunctious boys, I know all too well how the routine goes. From fun times at the lake to daily school routines and homework – this time of year only comes once a year so make the most of it! Back-to-school means new and exciting beginnings for the whole family. Be healthy, be prepared… and enjoy every moment!
 About the Author:
Kerrie Lee Brown is a sought-after communications executive, freelance writer and expert in the health and fitness industry. She contributes to a variety of women’s magazines and speaks at numerous conferences and events on motivation, marketing and work-life balance. But more than anything, Kerrie loves spending time with her two boys at the dirt bike track. Connect on Facebook at or follow on Twitter @KerrieLeeBrown


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