Beat the heat of back-to-school shopping

Just as summer is heating up, parents across the country are getting ready to do back-to-school shopping. Overwhelmed by the thought of doing back-to-school shopping for my 6½-year-old son, I decided to turn it into a learning experience for him. Here are some tips based on our experience:

  1. Get organized. Gather the supply lists sent home from school, and takeinventory of your kids’ closets to determine what clothing they need. Haveeach child create and maintain a checklist of the items he or she needs. A checklist will help them stay organized and focused
  2. Check circulars for sales. Retailers beg back-to-school shoppers to come to their stores, offering great deals on common back-to-school items, such as backpacks, crayons, folders, pencils, clothing, etc. After creating checklists, gather circulars and show your kids how to sort through them to find the best deals on the items they need. Have your kids jot down next to each item on their checklist the name of the retailer offering the best deals on the item and the sale price. This will help you set a budget and organize your shopping trip. 
  3. Set a budget. When you need to buy several items, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. After you peruse the circulars and have an idea of how much you’ll need to spend, set a budget. Asking your kids to stay within a budgeted amount will teach them how to manage money and avoid being wasteful.
  4. Plan your shopping route. After you determine all the stores you need to shop at and set your budget, plan your shopping route. Have your kids bring their lists with them so that they can check off the items as they’re purchased. Planning your route in advance will teach them time management skills. Don’t forget to schedule in a lunch break.
  5. Teach your children how to pay. If you plan to pay with cash, give your kids the budgeted amount and let them pay for the items on their own in each store. Of course, you’ll need to allow for a slight difference in the budgeted amount and actual amount. Letting the kids pay will teach them the value of money. If you need to pay by credit card, review the receipt with them later to show them the great deals they got and how much they spent. Have each child bag his or her own items separately so that it’s easy to sort through everything when you get home.
  6. Organize the purchases. All that shopping will likely tire you out. Set aside a few hours on another day to organize the purchases. Put all supplies in the new backpack, and put clothing away in the closets.
  7. Celebrate your accomplishment. Once you get back-to-school shopping done, you and your family can cool off and enjoy those last few days or weeks of sun and fun. Celebrate your accomplishment by doing something special—like taking in a movie, going out for ice cream, or having a barbeque. And feel good that you turned an overwhelming task into a fun, educational experience for your kids.

My son had a blast doing back-to-school shopping. He can't wait to tell his first-grade teachers how much he learned during the summer.

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