Back to school shopping tips to save your money and your sanity

Back to school shopping tips to save your money and your sanity
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According to a National Retail Federation report released in June, the average American family with children in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend an estimated $688.62 for back-to-school shopping, up from $603.63 last year.

That's a lot of dough.  If you're looking to save a little, a sales tax holiday can help.

Here in Illinois, there is no sales tax holiday. As for our neighboring states, Missouri and Iowa both have sales tax holidays (sorry, Chicagoans), and they start today.  Seventeen other states have  sales tax holidays, many of them also beginning today.  Check out this list of state sales tax holidays and purchase parameters from the Federation of Tax Administrators here.

Other back to school shopping tips to help you and your tween save:

  • Shop at home first.  See what you have from last year.  Maybe last year's back pack still has life left in it, or perhaps there are a few folders that didn't get used last year.  As for clothing, shop your tween's closet.  I was pleasantly surprised that my daughter's closet was fairly well stocked for the start of the school year.  If going in your tween's closet is a scary proposition, a) I'm sorry; b) I have faith that you can tackle it together before you shop, because there's no point in getting new clothes that will never be seen again; and c) I'm hoping that somewhere in the abyss you find good items that still fit.
  • Budget and stick to it.  Tweens are old enough to understand how a budget works and can learn to work with a budget, too. Families often take different approaches with tween budgets.  Some parents give tweens the money and let them spending, others purchase the basics only for their tweens, and some allowing tweens to supplement with their own money or to earn additional items through chores. You know your finances and your child best, and discussing the financial limits with your tween prior to shopping is important.  I'm not saying that you should review the mortgage balance with them, just tell them what you are wiling to spend, and stick to that limit.
  • Time your shopping well - Be well-rested and well-fed.  I haven't seen this one on many lists, but I swear that it matters.  Remember that some tween stores purposefully make the adult purchaser want to leave, hoping that they can get you frazzled enough to buy whatever your tween wants just to save your sanity. That overstimulating environment is easier to handle when you are in a calm, happy place as opposed to when you have one nerve ending left.  Have rational financial thoughts and sharing them with your tween in a rational conversation goes much better when you are well-rested than right after your tween has been up all night at a sleepover or just finished a grueling sports practice in the heat.
  • Don't be afraid to call in help.  Shopping my tween's closet was far more doable after my mom straightened it earlier this summer, and my kid has listened far better to her grandmother's admonitions to keep it clean than she did to mine. I also remember in junior high that my mom had a friend of hers, whom I really liked and whose taste she trusted, take me school shopping.  The friend didn't have a daughter and found it fun and there was no parental tension because if someone unrelated to you tells you that the outfit doesn't work for you, you're less likely to argue. Of course there are ground rules that need to be agreed upon first, but it can be a way to circumvent any drama, or just mix it up a little.  I have no doubt that you can handle it on your own and may not wish to trust someone else abdicate the responsibility, but as my great-grandma used to say, "A change is as good as a rest."

What's your favorite back to school shopping tip?

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