Shopping smart will take you to the head of the class back to school Educated shoppıng
YOUR MOST important
the right backpack.
A top-quality backpack
will last your child several
years, and may prevent serious back injuries as well.
Many children lug backpacks that weigh almost as
much as they do, says the
U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission, resulting in thousands of visits to
the emergency room each
year for back injuries.
Here’s what to look for
when choosing a backpack
for your child:
• Pick a lightweight bag
with multiple compartments that is the proper
size for your child; children
should never carry more
than 15 percent of their
• Help distribute the load of
heavy books; opt for a waist
strap for added support.
• Padded, adjustable
shoulder straps ensure
maximum comfort. Make
sure your child uses both
straps so the pack fits
snugly against his or
• Reflective trim offers
increased visibility at night.
By Wendy Helfenbaum GET OUT YOUR WALLET and take a deep breath. Here comes the one shopping spree most parents dread: the back-to-school bonanza, complete with the school supply list that seems to quintuple very year. A 2008 study conducted by the National Retail Foundation showed that American families spend just under $600 each year on back-to-school related items. But getting your child ready for school doesn’t have to be a teeth-grinding experience, says Costco member and mom of two teenagers Sherrie Le Masurier, a Peterborough, Ontario–based pro- fessional organizer.
“If money’s tight and you’re on a budget, be
practical. Before you do any back-to-school shopping, do a complete inventory of what you already
have,” she suggests. “Have the kids with you to try
stuff on: What doesn’t fit? What do you really need?”
Going through closets and drawers might
yield a surprising stash of items that can be reused
or repurposed. Last year’s scissors and geometry
sets may still be in good shape. Stickers and stencils can spruce up leftover supplies, such as plain
binders or notebooks.
Get your kids involved
Children as young as 7 can help create a back-to-school shopping plan during the summer
months, notes Le Masurier. “Discuss the difference
between the ‘needs’ and the ‘wants.’ Give older kids a
little more flexibility on how they’re going to divide
up their budget. They soon realize that if they spend
more on shoes, they’re going to have less for clothing. It can be a good lesson.”
Once your list is complete, “team up with a
friend or neighbor for maximum savings,” adds Le
Masurier. “Shop together and get lots of variety. If
you’ve both got kids that are the same size, buy
multipacks of socks, underwear and undershirts.”
Shopping over the summer means greater access
The Costco Connection
Check your local Costco warehouse and online at
Costco.com to help stretch your back-to-school
dollars. Items to look for include backpacks, storage containers, clothing items and more.
to pre-season promotions and product availability, advises Le Masurier. “If you see something in July that your kids could use for back to school, pick it up. You’re not going to have that $5-off coupon for sweatshirts the week before school starts. If your child doesn’t like it, you can easily bring it back. Don’t leave shopping to the last minute, because then you won’t have the selec- tion, and you’ll have to fight more crowds.”
Mix + match = maximum value
Make your child’s wardrobe go farther by
choosing classic styles. “Go for quality basics in
your kids’ favorite solid colors that will mix and
match with the rest of their clothes,” notes Le
Masurier. “If you’re going to splurge, do it on accessories like a cool scarf or a fancy belt.”
Air-drying cotton T-shirts and hoodies
instead of popping them in the dryer saves energy,
helps colors stay bright and reduces wear and tear
Supersize it and go green
Litter-less lunches are all the rage these days.
Going garbage-free minimizes your child’s impact
on the planet, plus it’s very budget friendly.
Le Masurier routinely saves up to $200 per
year per child by spooning bulk yogurt, applesauce and juice into reusable containers instead of
purchasing pricier single-serving food items for
her teenagers’ lunches.
Splurge on quality storage containers. Most of
the stackable containers are microwave, freezer and
dishwasher safe. Le Masurier assigns one color to
each family member to make lunch prep a snap.
Pack everything in a sturdy, PVC-free lunch
box cooler. For extra value, look for one that has a
leak-proof removable liner and a bonus stainless
steel water bottle.
Family budgets are tighter than ever this year,
which might make back-to-school shopping even
less appealing for many parents. Why not shop outside the box by teaming up with friends, involving
your kids and spending your money where it’s
going to count the most? C
is a writer and TV producer in Montreal.