Back-to-school shopping signals the official end to the summer – but it doesn’t have to be a downer.
It’s possible to turn this experience into a way to get your child excited and ready to start a new school year fresh, explains Carla Goldberg, preschool director at Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School in Chicago
If you have older children, they can help you make the list – or even write it themselves.
“Children love using clipboards, and feel very official with them,” Goldberg says.
For slightly younger children, you can also make the list together – but you could draw pictures instead of words to accompany the items. Another option would be to look through the store circulars together and cut out the pictures to go along with the items and glue them next to the list.
Whatever direction you choose, be sure to bring the children with you to the store and have them cross off the items as you purchase them.
Here’s another reason why it’s great to have kids to help with the shopping:
“Older children can also help you price compare with circulars or on the Internet, where you can get the best deal,” Goldberg says.
We rounded up our favorite spots to shop and found some budget-friendly options as well.
For the busy mom -- Target
Check out sales at Target this week and bring a few coupons with you and you’ve got anything you could ever want at great prices. Be sure to check out the store’s new Cartwheel App as well, which allows customers to preload discounts onto their smart phones that cashers then scan at checkout. It’s easy to make this your one-stop-shop for everything from computer paper to desks to clothing to backpacks because Target stores tend to have it all. Or, save it as the last stop for everything you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Details Locations throughout country. www.Target.com for more information.
For budget-friendly supplies -- Staples
Go here for everything that would go in or on a desk: paper, pens, notebooks . . . But check out the circulars and other sales before heading out the door. They often have back-to-school deals and rebates that will make the printer paper, notebooks and pens as low as a cent. No joke.
Details Locations throughout counrty. www.Staples.com for more information.
For school-appropriate fashion -- The Children’s Place
The clothing store stocks the cutest back-to-school staples for kids through size 14. What’s great about The Children’s Place is that it could be a one-stop-clothing shop because the store sells uniforms as well as everyday and party clothing. The prices are fabulous too. A pleated uniform polo dress sells for $17, while a pair of jeans is $16.50. Plus, it’s hard to pay full price here, as the clothing is nearly always on a very good sale (60 percent off is frequent). It can also last through a few hand-me-downs.
One unexpected find to snag here are the lunchboxes. Priced from $9 to $13, the insulated lunch totes come in fun designs and are easy to wipe down at the end of the day. Our lunchbox from The Children’s Place lasted the entire year with no funky odors.
Details Locations throughout country, go to www.ChildrensPlace.com for more information.
Budget-friendly school fashion -- Village Discount Outlet
If you’ve got the time and your child has lots and lots of patience (or loves to shop), come here to stock up on clothing at great prices. It’s a thrift store, so most of the clothing is second-hand, but you can occasionally find some new clothing. Every week, the stores choose three colors of clothing to discount by 50 percent. So if your child is a fan of pink clothing, call the store weekly to see if it’s her lucky week (they change the color sale every Thursday).
Details www.VillageDiscountOutlet.com for more information.
For creating a homework nook -- The Land of Nod
To help make your child be the A+ student he or she is meant to be, it would be great if they had an organized desk area. At The Land of Nod, there’s a ton of desks and hutches which can be combined to add extra storage space for all those books and computer software needs. The Walden Desk & Hutch ($700 for the desk and $350 for the hutch) comes in white, chocolate or blue and will give your child enough room to keep a desktop or laptop computer and is our favorite find. You can also purchase chairs to match.
Details Locations throughout country. www.LandOfNod.com for more information.
Something to splurge on -- L.L.Bean
For a backpack (starts at $30 for the smallest size) that’ll stand up to the toughest of kids, you’ll need to head here. There are no cute animal shapes or super fun patterns, but the bags are delightfully retro, and the good news is that these retro backpacks will last for years and still look delightfully retro yet brand new at the same time. A lot of children have these bags, so it’s best to monogram yours ($8). Plus, that makes it look a little more personal. Worried about having your little one’s name out in the open? Put his initials on it so he knows his bag is his – but no one will know his name.
Details Locations throughout country. www.llbean.com
College-bound students - Textbooks on Park
College students should skip the queue at their local bookstore and head here for majorly discounted textbooks. While they primarily service College of DuPage students, all students are welcome – and they’ve got a great selection of used textbooks. They also have a rental program and a buyback program where they’ll pay up to 50 percent off the current used retail price from any school for books that meet their criteria. Call ahead of time to make sure they have the books on your school list – and then you’re good to go.Details www.textbooksonpark.com