Back-to-school shopping can be exciting, fun, stressful, overwhelming, or all of the above. But it doesn’t have to up the stress factor OR take up precious pool time during summer months. With a little preparation and strategic planning, you can develop a back-to-school shopping plan that makes you feel like a total pro.
Here’s what you need to know:
Make a list of your needs
Before you even think about hitting the stores or filling up your online shopping cart for back-to-school shopping, get a pen and paper and make a comprehensive list of all the things you need to buy. It’s best to make a separate list for each child.
The list should be divided into four main categories:
- Clothing: If your kids’ school has a uniform policy, then you’ll want to be sure to put the specific items, and numbers and sizes for each on the list. Start with the immediate season — your kids could have a growth spurt and make those long pants for winter months unusable before the first snowflakes even start to fall. No uniform policy? Involve your kids in the clothing shopping process, looking together at what’s trendy and what they like. And don’t forget gym clothes and shoes!
- School Supplies: Pens, pencils, notebooks, folders. Backpacks and lunch boxes. Water bottles. If your kids’ school didn’t send a list home at the end of the school year, you may want to give them a call or check with the PTA to see if your kids’ new teachers have a supply list. If so, half your work is already done for you!
- Extracurricular Supplies: What are your kids’ after-school activities? Sports, music, art, or something else entirely? What clothes and gear will they need once the school day ends? Add these items to your list.
- Tech Items: As your kids get older, they’ll likely have more tech needs, such as a graphing calculator or tablet. These are bigger ticket items, so you may need to budget accordingly.
Develop a shopping plan
Strategic shopping will help save you money and time while preparing for back-to-school season. Do you want to shop mainly online, or mostly in stores? The former has advantages, of course, but when it comes to clothes and shoes, you’ll probably want to make an in-person trip, bringing the kids along so they can try on items to ensure a good fit (and prevent returns).
There may be some items, especially from the school and extracurricular supplies categories, that you want to buy online. Be sure to order well ahead of the back-to-school date so you can be certain you’ll receive everything on time.
Of course, you’ll probably want to cash in on deals if possible. Who doesn’t love to save money? If you’re a member of The Children’s Place My Place Rewards, why not cash in your points for back-to-school shopping? And if you’re shopping online, start by setting up an account on Upromise, which diverts cash-back savings on online purchases into a 529 college savings account for your kids. Shop The Children’s Place online via Upromise and you’ll get 5% cash-back on your purchase!
Finally, if you are taking the kids along with you on shopping trips, be sure to set expectations before you leave home. Let them know what you intend to buy — 1 backpack, 1 lunch box, 5 shirts, 5 shorts or pants, and 2 pairs of shoes, for example — and let them know how you plan to involve them in the shopping process. Will you let them get any backpack they want, for example, or do you want to approve their choice? Is there a limit on the amount of money for each item? Help them understand your expectations so they can have a fun time, too.
Know when to shop
It may take a bit of research, but you’re a mom, and you’ve got this! You’ll want to identify the best times to get deals before the last-minute back-to-school rush. Many stores offer early-bird incentives for shoppers who want to get a jump on their list. Do you know when your state offers tax-free shopping for back-to-school? Depending on where you live, this could save you a significant amount of money, but you should compare the savings on taxes with any sales prices during other times. Shopping for clothing should be done closer to the start of school to avoid your child growing out of their new clothes over the summer months.
Save receipts in one place
Did you buy a Spanish dictionary in June, but your child has decided to switch to French in September? Don’t miss out on a refund by saving all of your back-to-school shopping receipts in one location. Take note of any store return policies. While most major chains have generous return windows, others may not be as flexible. Want to know about The Children’s Place’s returns and exchange policy? You can read it right here.
Back-to-school shopping takes work, but with the right tools and tricks, getting your child prepared to return to school doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming — or stressful! Take your time planning your back-to-school shopping, and you’ll be ready before you know it.