It’s hard to believe that it’s August already.  That can only mean 1 thing in the White Lake area; back to school season is almost upon us.  I think it’s been here for a few weeks already, but I’m either a procrastinator or in denial.

(I think it’s a little bit of both actually.)

Just like trying to do your Christmas shopping without losing all of your marbles, it’s important to go into school shopping with a plan.

With that being said, I’ve compiled a list of some hints that I think might be helpful for getting through school shopping alive.

  • Make a list! This is probably the single most important thing to keep in mind before school shopping. You can probably find your child’s supply list on their school website. Once you have the list; STICK WITH IT! We all know the temptation to get little Susie those awesome pens that smell like strawberries, but if they don’t NEED to have it, don’t get it. The same goes for those trendy accessories like lunchboxes and locker decorations. Trust me, it makes more sense to use last years lunchbox for a few days until your kid can coordinate with her best friends.  At least this way, you know that you can avoid having your kid ask for a new lunchbox to replace the new one you bought 2 days ago.  (Seriously, trust me. I’ve been there.)

It’s also important to make good shopping decisions.  It’s tempting to just buy the cheapest items, but sometimes it makes more sense to spend a little extra on something like a backpack.  If you buy something that doesn’t hold up and last, you may end up quickly replacing it and spending more money overall.

Another great idea that I plan to implement is to check around the house to see what other supplies you may already have on hand.  I’m a scatterbrained, disorganized mess, so it’s not completely out of the question that last year I bought multiple boxes of pencils and forgot about them.  When the time came that we needed pencils, I couldn’t find the ones I already had and went out and bought more.

  • Have a plan! Just like with Black Friday shopping, you need to have a game plan before you go back to school shopping.  Look at your list of needs and compare it to the ads and find the best deals. Figure out where you are going to go, and what you are buying in which stores. If you find an amazing deal on something that you know you will need more of down the road, buy more now and avoid paying full price later on.

(Make sure you designate a spot or a box in your home for all of your office/school supplies. This will hopefully help you from misplacing it and having to buy more in the future at full price.)

  • Make separate shopping trips! Ideally, it would be best to get the school shopping experience out of the way in one quick trip, but it will go much smoother if you make 2 separate trips: 1 for supplies and 1 for clothing.

(Maybe bring something to entertain your kid with as well.  If your kid is like my daughter, they will get real bored, real fast.)

  • Have a fashion show. Speaking of clothes; go through your kids clothes from last year and see if anything still fits and is in good condition.  More than likely, you will have to buy new shoes and pants, but sometimes kids can wear the same size shirts for a couple years. (On the flipside, sometimes your kid goes through 3 different shoe and pant sizes in 1 year and you have to make multiple shopping trips.)  Keep in mind that your child doesn’t have to have all brand new clothes on the first day of school.  As far as the weather goes, you can probably get away with sending your kid off to school in their summer clothes. By using what you already have, you can break up the shopping a little bit so that you aren’t spending a large chunk of money at one time.

Above all else, back to school shopping can be an excellent teaching experience for your kids.  Give them a budget and the list, and make them stick to it. Help them make good choices and teach them that certain choices have consequences. If they want that super expensive backpack, than they might need to settle for a less expensive lunchbox. By letting them make choices, they will hopefully learn that you can’t always have fancy notebooks and fruity smelling gel pens.  They may also learn that by making the right choices, they could have enough left to upgrade to fruity smelling pens.

I am by no means an expert on frugal school shopping, but I think that by following these guidelines, even I can make back to school shopping less expensive and maybe even less stressful.