Make a plan, make it fun: Back-to-school shopping requires strategy

By: 
Aug. 13, 2013

Bribe them with lunch out. Let them bring a friend. Back-to-school clothes shopping doesn't have to be drag.

BY WAYNE GRANT | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

After visiting a few stores during their back-to-school shopping, Cindy Dalecki’s 14-year-old son, Dalton, is ready to call it quits.

“He tells me he has enough clothes for school,” Dalecki said. “But I have to do the laundry. I want him to have a lot of clothes.”

Bargaining and rewards often are used to keep Dalton, and his 11-year-old brother, Tyler, shopping.

“The deal-maker is always food,” she said. “We go to lunch.”

Another local mother, who wished not to be identified, said her secret is to let her daughter take along a friend when they shop for school.

“It’s fun for me and fun for my daughter to go with friend,” she said.

Her daughter also likes having a friend along.

“She’ll tell me if something looks weird,” her daughter said.

Dalecki would rather buy clothes slowly over the summer, she says, but with two boys who “grow like weeds,” it’s difficult.

“If I buy something early, I buy it a little too big so it fits when summer is over,” she said. She also hides the clothes so they can’t wear them before school starts.

Selecting clothes is not an issue for either the moms.

Dalecki said the school wardrobe for her sons consists of T-shirts and shorts.

“It’s either jean shorts or jeans,” the second mom said. “The school dress code makes it easy, also. Shorts have to be a certain length, no rips. I just say ‘that’s against the dress code.’”

Getting value for your money is where the planning and strategy come in. The mom who wanted to remain anonymous and her daughter have found a consignment shop that has name brands at up to 70% off.

Their first step in preparation for back-to-school shopping is to try everything on and see how many new outfits her daughter needs. To make full use of the trip to the consignment shop, they take some of her out-grown outfits in for trade.

“I don’t make a budget,” she said. “We just determine how many different outfits she needs.”

Another technique is to shop online. The mom said a store may not have her daughter’s size, but all the sizes are available online. Clearance items can also be purchased online.

Dalecki also looks for bargains, but she tends to get overwhelmed by all of the sales and discount letters that seem to flood her email inbox.

“You want the best value but don’t want to run all over town,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll pay a little more just to avoid the big stores and crowds. It’s worth it.”

Dalecki said she will buy things like a cellphone case or a charger cord online but not clothes.

“They might not like the color or the location of a pocket,” she said.

Dalecki said she has finished clothes shopping but is waiting to meet the teachers before buying supplies. She said it was simpler when her boys were in grade school and only had one teacher. Now that they are in middle and high school, they have several teachers.

“They all want different things,” she said.

When making a budget, Dalecki says it’s important to remember that certain general supplies, such as printer paper and hand sanitizer, are needed throughout the entire year. Other items? They serve a more specific purpose.

“If your kid is in a cooking class, they might have to buy a box of noodles,” she said.