RISMEDIA, August 7, 2007–Every year, around August and September, parents of young children face one of their largest single expenses: getting their kids ready for a new school year. They extend their budget for children’s clothes and school supplies, forgetting to plan ahead in the process.
Unfortunately, this expensive annual tradition has not been adapted to a time when there are more single parents and, in general, less money in the average family budget. That’s why it is more important at this time to be an informed shopper than ever.
Start by taking a thorough inventory of what you already have, and develop a budget for what you still need. Then, list each item in priority, from most important to least important. By having a prioritized, budgeted shopping list, it can be trimmed easily by cutting from the bottom.
The next step is to compare prices of different items. If a store five miles away is offering low prices on blue jeans, it may be worth the drive. Buy underwear, socks and other basics in quantity when they are on sale, making sure to allow for growth. Check as many newspaper advertisements and catalogs as possible before you finally make your purchases.
Another important strategy is to remember that what you buy is as important as how you buy. Basic, durable clothing will stretch your dollars significantly. Check for strong buttonholes, secure buttons, reinforced stitching, firmly woven or knitted fabric, and basic styles.
Some important things to remember about back-to-school shopping:
Children grow quickly. Look for articles of clothing with no definite waistline, like overalls. Blouses and shirts with long tails, as well as pants with elastic waistbands, also allow for kids to grow. Make shorts out of long pants, and short sleeves out of long sleeves, as your child grows. Also, straight-knit dresses make great tops for jeans, stretch pants, or skirts.
Kids like ‘easy’ clothes. For younger children, getting the best value for your dollar means buying clothes they like to wear. Look for articles they can manage without much help. For example, front openings, flat buttons, easy-to-reach pockets, elastic waistbands, and large necklines make it easier for kids to get dressed in the morning. Remember, the easier it is for them to dress themselves, the less stressful your mornings will be.
Save on school supplies. Before you run to the “Back To School” section at an expensive retailer, compare prices with lower priced outlets and office supply stores. You might find that the spiral notebook with the really colorful cover is more expensive and has less paper than the one with the plain cover.
Shopping for school clothes and supplies also gives parents a great opportunity to teach their older kids about spending habits. Sit down with your children and decide on a budget. Let them do the comparison shopping and point out that if they get the expensive sneakers, they have to cut back in other areas. Not only will they learn about smart shopping, they will value what you buy for them much more.
The most important strategy for Back To School shopping is to stick to the budget you set. Bring only as much cash as you need, based on your budget, and leave your credit cards at home.
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