Do your homework for easier back-to-school shopping. Here are tips:
A mother of four who calls herself a shopping pro says don't leave home without coupons and class supply lists. Grocery stores that double and even triple coupons often turn out to have the best buys on basics such as notebooks, pens and pencils, she says.
Try to stick to your teacher's list and budget with a couple of extra treats. Also, expect your school to need basics such as paper towels, hand sanitizer and plastic baggies. Buy in bulk and split with other parents.
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"For clothes, back-to-school shopping can be both bonding and fun," says Carol Weston, author of "Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You" (HarperCollins, 2004). "But all too often it's a train wreck."
To stay on track, Weston offers these tips:
Protect your child's confidence. Don't say, "That makes you look heavy." Say, "I think the other skirt is more flattering."
Protect your wallet. If you can't spend hundreds of dollars, make that clear ahead of time. Shop at bargain stores, and don't try on high-end clothes.
Be patient. Your son may not care about shopping at all. If something fits him, why not go nuts and buy it in two colors?
Be practical. Remind your child that it's easier to take good care of wash 'n' wear clothes.
Keep receipts and know a store's return policy.
Weston, who writes for Girls' Life, has a website at www.carolweston.com.
Getting the deals
A Davidson mother of two in elementary school suggests: Identify your favorite stores, ones that you patronize regularly; learn about the deals offered through card membership; decide whether getting a card makes sense for you; then act on those deals.
Rather shop online? Among a new trend in private online discount shopping sites with free memberships is Zulily at www.zulily.com. Shoppers receive daily e-mail alerts on deals on 500 brands. Two dads launched the site to help moms find clothes for their kids.
Recycle. Get more than one year out of backpacks.
Hit consignment shops and thrift stores.
Know the dress code at your child's school.