August 23, 2012

From the Editor: Wise parents can ease the pain of school shopping

By ROD HARMON Deputy Managing Editor

Children in Maine will begin heading back to halls of learning next week, and parents inevitably will be scrambling to finish off their back-to-school shopping.

According to the National Retail Federation, parents will spend more than $600 to get one child ready for school this year. Personally, I'd like to know what exactly a kid needs for school that costs $600, because it ain't happenin' in MY house.

But even if you're shopping for bargains, you may end up with sticker shock at the end of the line, especially if you take your kid with you.

So here are some tips from my wife and me on how to save some of that bank for the coming onslaught of school fundraisers:

1. Don't take the kid with you. Make a list of essentials (pencils, pens, binders, etc.), and go shopping for them yourself. A plain yellow pencil works just as well as a pencil covered with SpongeBob or rainbow designs, and it costs less. You'll also be less likely to buy that locker chandelier or Angry Birds flash drive.

2. Do a sweep of the closets and dressers to see what can be repurposed (that's corporate speak for "use it 'til it breaks," kids) for the new school year. If a pair of jeans is worn in the knees, cut holes in them -- instant fashion statement.

Buy a tie-dye kit for $12 to $15, and your children can decorate as many as 15 old T-shirts however they want. That's the price of one new shirt alone.

3. Recycle broken crayons by putting them in a Play-Doh container and microwave them to create one giant crayon.

4. Repair that tattered backpack from last year with multi-colored duct tape available at most craft stores and retail outlets. Designer duct tape projects are huge among the tween set right now, so this is not only practical, it's trendy.

5. Keep an eye out this weekend for last-minute shopping coupons and sale ads, including in the Maine Sunday Telegram. Retailers are becoming ever desperate to move their back-to-school items, and they'll be deeply discounted.

6. Don't give in to trends. Your child may really be into Dora the Explorer now, but in six months, she'll be "too old" for it, and you'll be stuck buying more school supplies. Stick with more generic designs to spare yourself the inevitable arguments.

7. Treat yourself to a glass of wine and a non-kid movie when you're done. You deserve it.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

Twitter: RHarmonPPH


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