Photo by: iStock

Back-to-School Shopping Made Easy

Photo by: iStock

It seems as if summer will never get here and then BOOM! In a flash, it’s over. Now starts the race to get ready for school. Where do you start? Clothes? Supplies? The trick to surviving BTS frenzy is to plan throughout the year. Lorraine Turner, a retired grade school teacher in Southern California with two sons in high school and college, advises, “Big box stores stock loads of school supplies at great prices in mid to late summer. The selection is unmatched for everything from paper and pens to lunch bags and binders.”

1. Shop online: Not only will this save you the hassle of negotiating through crowds of other stressed-out moms, but you can also do it anytime and save money, too. Sign up for cash back/rewards programs (such as Ebates or store loyalty programs) and save even more.

2. Hit the big box stores: It’s a no-brainer! Every time you shop at a big box store, keep your eyes open for school supplies and clothing. Turner notes, “With older kids, it’s best to wait until after the first day of school for supplies other than paper, pens, and pencils, as teachers hand out supply lists for their classes. Some even ask for a special binder. But get into the store with that list ASAP before the best deals are sold out.”

3. Don’t pay retail: Kids’ clothing is almost always pricey. Check out the finds at your local thrift stores, and you’ll pay pennies on the dollar for clothes your kids will probably outgrow in a year. Turner suggests you wait “until the last possible moment to buy jeans and slacks because [kids] can grow so fast!” If waiting’s not for you, go ahead and buy too-long jeans. You can always cuff the jeans then undo the cuffs as the kids grow taller.

4. Watch auction sites such as eBay: It’s still a heavy hitter for bargains. Search for “lots” and you’ll find sellers trying to offload quantities of pretty much anything, from pens, notebooks, backpacks, art supplies and more.

5. Enlist your kids’ help: How? Ask them throughout the school year what they need. Don’t assume what you think they’ll need, especially in these times where all students are connected to technology.

And it’s not just about the students. Teachers are always in need of supplies, as school district funding becomes tighter with each passing year. Remember those eBay auctions? If you ended up with 100 color markers and your kids only needed 20, donate the rest to their teachers. You can even team up with other parents to bid on larger “lot” auctions and save for yourselves and donate more to the teachers in need. “Most teachers have a classroom wish list they make available at the beginning of the school year. Be sure to check that to best provide exactly what your child’s teacher needs,” says Turner.

Shelley Moench-Kelly, MBA, is a New England-based writer and editor whose freelance clients include Google, L’Oreal Paris and

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