Six Ways to Take the Stress Out of Back to School Shopping

If you are nervous about getting your kids the clothes and supplies they need to go back to school, you’re not alone. Zulily, a retailer that focuses on women, went outside the retail realm and surveyed more than 6,000 parents about their biggest fears regarding their children as they prepare to head back to school.

Scarier than who their child’s teacher would be, or the homework or the school bus, was how much it would cost to get their kids ready for school. Of the 6,000 parents interviewed, 52 percent said that was their biggest stressor. In fact, it was number one.

If you find yourself in that situation, let us offer you five bits of advice that will help you feel better before you hit the stores.

  1. Involve your children in your planning. This could be a great teaching moment, something you might not have counted on before school began. Many kids will respond favorably if you lay out the truth. Tell them you are planning what to get them as they prepare to go back to school, but that you are also placing a high emphasis on other priorities, such as getting out of debt and paying the normal monthly expenses. Let them know that by getting the family out of debt and staying current on bills you will have more flexibility later on how you spend money. Show them how these choices benefit them.
  2. List the things your children will need. Don’t look at the prices as you do that. Make your list of items first, including things that might be removed from the list later.
  3. Establish a budget. Calculate how much you have in your account to spend without relying on credit.
  4. Plan your shopping from home. Check out the deals in newspaper ads and mailers. Look online at store ads. If there is something your child really wants that you can’t find in an advertisement, send someone to scout how much it costs. Important: Don’t give the scout any money. Just get the price. Once you have the prices, figure out what you can buy and what you cannot. Don’t forget to account for sales taxes in your calculations.
  5. Shop with cash. Get the money you planned to spend on back-to-school shopping. Do not take your debit or credit cards with you. That way you will avoid impulse buys and will make it impossible to break your budget or charge any purchases.
  6. If during your shopping your child sees something he or she wants, offer to trade that item for something on the list if that will work. Maybe better, tell your child one of you can save up for it, introducing the beauty of delayed gratification.

By following these steps you take the stress out of back-to-school shopping and worry about the things that really matter, such as how your child is actually doing in school.