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Back To School Shopping

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Here are some tips to help you get to the most out of your Back To School shopping experience.


Back To School Shopping
The hazy, lazy days of summer are in full bloom but the second largest shopping period after Christmas is just around the corner. Soon it will be time to trade the flip-flops for Crayolas and Elmer's -as America's 60 million school kids hit the books again. But before they do, you'll be hitting the stores and shelling out what the National Retail Federation estimates will be on average $500 per family for back-to-school clothing and school supplies. Many parents dread the occasion as stressful, time-consuming and, of course, wallet draining. But it can also be a bonding and educational experience. Here are some back to school shopping tips to help you get to the head of the store.

I. Planning

Make a list and check it thrice. The first time is when you get the school's registry of needed gear. You may have to visit the school's Web site for it. Or consult neighbors who have completed the grade your child is entering. Also let what you bought last year guide you. Edit your list after you've taken inventory of your kids' closets (and distributed the too-smalls to younger kids or charity for a tax credit, and shifted outdated clothes to the attic to resurrect when they're back in style).

Then refine the list to separate needs from wants (and fads from trends). New pants are needs if the old ones got too short and need to be updated with some trendy fashions to lift spirits; Wants include the RAZR cellphone because other kids have them.

Set a spending limit and plan. Discuss with your kids what you'll pay for and how they can pitch in from their allowance or part time job to pay for optionals. Turn the pre-shopping spree into a money-management workshop by having them make budgeting and purchasing decisions with you.

Check newspapers and catalogs for back to school shopping bargains and comparison shop online on bots (robots) like, and If a store fifteen miles away has a special on jeans, get the older kids to figure out if it's worth the gas and whether product features like 200 pages in a notebook at one price make it a better value than 100 pages for slightly less. Consider resale and outlet stores and tag sales to see if you/they can get more for less and consider clicks instead of bricks: many cyber retailers offer free shipping.

II. When to Shop

Retailers move the annual rite ever earlier in the summer so you'll come back often before the school bell rings. You can get the best selection in early season but you'll pay full-price. School supplies get discounted by mid-September. Hold off completing the shopping list to take advantage of these soon-to-come discounts -- and to see what other kids are wearing so you don't waste money on what your kid won't "put on."

For a better selection, shop on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings when stores are likeliest to restock shelves in anticipation of weekend crowds.

Wait for sales at stores you traditionally patronize and take advantage of your state's tax-free holidays. It's smart to buy over the course of the year to take advantage of sales and specials. Load up on underwear, socks and other basics when discounted, allowing for your child's growth, and anticipate they'll need extras when they're "in season." It's hard to find a lunchbox in February.

Never shop when you're hungry or tired: the temptation to overspend and just get it done is too great. And keep outings short instead of trying to jam it into one packed day. You'll lose perspective and mistake dogs for deals.

III. How to Pay for The Loot

Use coupons and loyalty cards which pay dividends when they're available.

Pack just one credit or debit card--so you control the outlay. Your card will offer some protection from a defective product or uncooperative retailer and just may reward you with dividends or perk. Your credit card may offer special deals or double rewards for this shopping period.

Pay off your charges soon to avoid paying high interest.

Hang onto receipts to return unused items and, in some states, take tax deductions. Harris Interactive found 79 percent of back-to-school shoppers returned at least one item to the retailer. Read the retailer's return policy before you buy: many limit the number of days or offer store credit instead of a refund.

IV. Beware of store traps:

Shoppers who stick to their prepared lists are rare. They're also disliked by stores that count on impulse purchases to fatten their pockets.

Stores stimulate sales by adjusting the tempo of the audio tracks they play. Research found people buy more when listening to sad slow ballads.

Stores use relaxing colors to reduce the rate at which you blink. They use color to speak to your subconscious. Forest green and burgundy store awnings say the goods inside are pricey. Orange shouts affordable.

Most people believe that the larger the package, the better the buy. That's not always true. Sometime "quantity" surcharges make it cheaper to buy the same amount in two smaller boxes. Compare.

Leaving everything from underwear to bed linens out to touch makes you likelier to buy. The larger the cart or basket, the more you're likely to put in it.

If you sit in a shoe store, you're 20 to 50 percent more likely to buy.

The more shopper-employee contact that takes place, the greater the average sale. On your mark, get set, shop…wisely!.

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