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Shopping Strategy

10 Great Tips to Keeping Your Cool and Controlling Your Cash

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), retail sales during back-to-school shopping months are a close second to those of the holiday months (November and December). No wonder those three little words, back-to-school, start parent's blood pressure rising. In fact, a study of over 9,000 respondents by BIGresearch ( found that the average American family will spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies, and electronics in 2010.

So, what is the best strategy for keeping your cool and your cash while back-to-school shopping? Here are 10 great tips to help you get organized for the big shopping excursion.


Have you have heard the saying, "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail?" Well, this holds true when it comes to back-to-school shopping. Start off by getting a list of recommended or required school supplies from your child's school or teacher.



Sort through all of last year's school supplies, office supplies, and those overflowing junk drawers. You are bound to come up with a few items you can cross off your list. Also, take note of your child's clothing conditions and inventory. If everything from last year fits and is in good condition, why go out and buy more?



Work with your child to make a list of essentials needed to start the school year. All other items are wants. Be firm and stick to your needs list.



Does last year's backpack or lunch box work just fine? If so, suggest to your child that you purchase a new one after school begins. Once school starts, your child will most likely see a version on a school mate he prefers. This will save you the step in having to "upgrade" to the cooler version later.


Are last year's binders and folders in good shape? If so, why not encourage your child to redecorate using stickers, fabric, or extra wrapping paper. Make it personal!



Shopping online may be convenient and great for comparative shopping; however a study by BIGresearch estimates that online shoppers spend 44% more than those who purchase items in person.



Bulk buy whenever possible, especially if some of the essential school supplies are items you use around the house all year long. Most back-to-school sales offer school supplies at a reduced rate to get you to come in and shop at a particular store. Remember, prices for most school-related items seem to increase a few weeks after school begins.


This is a great time to start asking friends for hand me downs. It is also smart to shop consignment and thrift shops. Most carry a good supply of collared shirts and school uniforms. In addition to consignment shopping, you can cash in by selling some of your child's outgrown items.


Did you ever notice how amazing it is when kids have to spend their own money for items they suddenly do not "need" as much as they thought they did?



It is hard to believe that little Suzie has outgrown everything all at once. If she has underwear and socks that fit, do not add them to the list. Kids are constantly growing and their essentials wear out at different times. Resist the temptation to get everything all at once.


Back-to-school shopping is not an art or science that takes years to master. It is important to plan ahead so you do not get caught up in the hype of the back-to-school frenzy. Just start early, get organized, take inventory and stick to your plan.

Kara Ferraro is a publisher and freelance writer with two elementary school children. She is always looking for clever ways to save money and time.

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Pouches' Community Corner

Pouches Visits the Past


If Pouches' experience at History Camp is any indication, your son or daughter will enjoy joining Washington Heritage Museums and the George Washington Foundation for History Camp in Fredericksburg. The week-long day camp will be held June 25-29, from 9:00 a.m. to noon each day.

Young historians discover American history with hands-on experiences as they walk in the footsteps where the history of Fredericksburg, and a budding America, was created. The camp complements the history taught in classrooms with activities such as soap making, code breaking, colonial crafts, penmanship and much more.