10 easy tips to survive back-to-school shopping

bigstockphoto.com @ obey lessin

The return of another academic year is upon us, meaning parents are once again faced with the daunting task of back-to-school shopping. But it doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your wallet and sanity. Parenting Times spoke to two Ottawa moms who had great tips to offer.

  1. Check existing inventory. Cassandra Henry of Cass’ Decluttering Solutions suggests parents go through their existing stock before they actually begin shopping or making their lists. This can help avoid clutter and save money on duplicate supplies and clothing.
  2. Sort through supplies. Recycle old notebooks by using the blank pages as scrap for homework help, throw away dried-up glue sticks, make note of how many unused duo tangs you have left, and donate old clothes. This will give you a better idea of what you will still need to buy.
  3. Come armed with a list. Sarah Smith, an Ottawa teacher, says to use a supplies list provided by your child’s school. “There’s lots of school lists that you can find online too that aren’t necessarily for your child’s school, but they can give you an idea,” she adds. And Henry suggests realsimple.com’s list, one of the top results in a Google search.
  4. Map it out. Using both the supplies list and the list of items you already have, create your shopping list. Henry suggests planning it out by store department to keep focused.
    “[Not categorizing] makes shopping take a lot longer and we end up spending more because we’re going down aisles that we don’t need to,” she explains. She suggests colour-coding your list by department so you don’t miss anything.
  5. Get your child involved. Smith says if your financial situation permits, let your child take over some of the decision-making during shopping trips to give them a more pleasant experience. “We take our daughter and we go to any big box store and go through the list with her,” she says. “She’ll pick the SpongeBob one or the Phineas and Ferb one so she has some kind of connection to them as well.”
  6. Resist the sales. Henry says it’s easy to create more clutter and disorganization in your home when there’s a deal. She suggests never buying large quantities just because of a low price. “Be cautious of buying things on sale. Only buy them if you really need them,” she says. She recommends Flipp App to find local deals and price-match.
  7. Budget and find alternatives. If you can’t purchase of all the supplies needed, check Kijiji and local Facebook groups for businesses or families that may be giving their extras away. Smith also recommends recycling from year-to-year and if all else fails, “letting the school know that you’re having a tough time and that your child might not be able to come with everything that’s needed.”
  8. Have a backup plan. Henry and Smith both suggest having a few of the more commonly needed items on hand as backup just in case. These items include colouring pencils, erasers, notebooks, glue sticks and sharpeners.
  9. Storage solutions. According to Smith, “never underestimate the power of [storage bags] and the functionality of them.” They’re used by teachers in classrooms for just about everything from protecting agendas being transported back-and-forth, to bringing back permission slips, projects and money for pizza days.
  10. Make lunches simpler. Henry suggests keeping just one or two sets of uniform food storage containers for lunches and just replacing individual pieces as needed. This helps avoid stray lids taking up space. 

Need help getting (and staying) organized this fall?

Courtesy Cassandra Henry

Cassandra Henry of Cass’ Decluttering Solutions wants to help moms and dads stay organized and efficient this school year. Here are some tips she recommends:

  1. Create a system for storing backpacks. This can include hooks to hang them on, as well as a dumping bin for bags to be emptied in each night.
  2. Organize a command centre and homework station to get your family on track. If you don’t have the space for a desk, just a designated area on a wall will do. Keep a calendar and white board, as well as a corner to highlight your children’s achievements.
  3. Add an overstock station near your command centre, where you can keep extra school supplies and pieces of scrap paper.
  4. Plan your meals ahead of time to make sure to have everything you need on hand for lunches, and to save money by only buying the foods you need.
  5. To save space in your pantry, empty snacks out of their original packaging and keep them in a designated snack bin with a variety of treats. This makes it simple for kids to grab a quick after-school snack, too.