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Back to School Shopping Made Simple

Planning is paramount for practical purposes (but don't forget the fun)

The first thing you need to know about back to school shopping is you and your children need to be in the proper mindset, sort of like the people who shop on Black Friday (I have never done it, but tip my hat to those who do).

It’s a golden moment when both the parent and child mindset meld, and you are one with the shopping gods.

Prepare them well ahead, and understand what does and doesn’t motivate your kids. For example, when I tell my 5-year old son: “Wednesday we are clothes shopping,” the prospect of spending hours in (and in-between) stores doesn’t exactly excite him.

However, if you have a teenage daughter, you can be sure she will be waking you up Wednesday morning rarin’ to go! She might even enlist friends to come along and “help."

Some stores have BOGO (Buy One Get One) sales - these are terrific to hit when you have multiple children (or you want a great excuse to buy a new pair of shoes for yourself).

While you are shopping for school, don’t forget about bargains for next summer – I always hit the summer clearance rack, especially for my son. Sometimes this works out for autumn/winter clothes as well.

For example, my son wears T-shirts, jeans and usually a long sleeve shirt over his T-shirt come wintertime. Although I will probably not find a long sleeve shirt on the clearance rack, T-shirts I am almost assured of finding!

For my daughter, some darker colored summer-style dresses that I can pair with a sweater and leggings work well.

Promise to take the kids to lunch… I know, I know, YOU promised you would never bribe your children, but you had those children and they became vocal and shopping became nearly impossible.

OK, maybe that’s just me, but I like to bring up as a “peace offering” the chance to go out to lunch, which they don’t get to do all that often. Even picking up something at the grocery store that they consider a “delicacy” and then stopping off at the park will probably work just as well.

If your kids are older and more into fashion, you may want to create a budget before stepping foot in the mall. It just makes it easier when you have $40 budgeted in black and white for a winter coat and they walk over to you with a $175 leather jacket.

OK, yes, I was once the child in that scenario… I admit that. But my mom made sure we knew what the limits were beforehand, so I wasn’t too surprised when I was told to put it back.

Don’t forget things like gloves, hats and scarves. It seems too early, especially while shopping in the summertime, but it really isn’t. You can get some good deals before the season starts, but it might be better to buy these at the end of the winter season.

Of note, I like the dollar stores for their “waiting at the bus stop” gloves. They don’t need to be as waterproof as the ones they play outside in on a snow day and are easily replaced when lost.

Tax Free Week is Sunday, August 21 through Saturday, August 27, this year, during which clothing under $300 per item and shoes under $300 are free from sales tax.

OK, so maybe you CAN then get a relatively good bargain on the leather jacket… just don’t tell the kids, and everything will be all right.

So, the moral of the story is: Back to school shopping can be fun and you can make lasting memories. I have so many wonderful memories of school shopping with my mom at the Naugatuck Valley Mall. For those of you too young or too new to the area to remember, it’s the mall that used to be where the Walmart in Waterbury is now. Ah, the memories.

So – what are you waiting for? Get out there and plan that budget, but also plan on having fun!

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