Cut back-to-school costs – What do students really need?

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Cut back-to-school costs Most stores feature special sales every month . . . and August is no exception. Aisles are already lined with school supplies, ranging from bright displays of ball point pens to bins of odd-shaped erasers. Prices for pencils and paper will never be lower than they are in August.

Disney-décor-themed backpacks, cartoon characters on colorful folders and big boxes of crayons lure shoppers into taking them home for their kids. Wise buyers, though, won’t act so fast. As much as their offspring want to stock up early on learning tools, a few parents know that they might be wasting family resources by purchasing school supplies too soon.

Some states or school boards have policies that equip students with all or most school needs. They make education affordable for everyone by providing all the supplies students will need. Teachers in other schools send home lists of items that children are asked to bring for class projects. Suggestions on those lists are often very specific, such as “box of 10-12 washable markers.” or “safety scissors suitable for kindergarten students,” so families are wise to delay shopping until after school starts.

Avoid making back-to-school fashion mistakes                                    

Just as waiting to buy school supplies can be a money-saving strategy, the same is true for fall fashions. Stick with just one basic outfit for opening day; then, let a little time lapse into the new school year before investing in more clothing for kids. Every parent knows the agony of the fashion faux pas. After spending a fortune on neon sneakers, for example, or Super Star basketball shoes, such fleeting fads quickly go out of style. Those once costly items often stay at the back of the closet covered with dust.

Even though uniforms are rarely required, most schoolchildren want to dress just like everyone else. Beware of clothing that is too stylish, too colorful, or too far out from ordinary attire. Some colors can even cause problems for kids. After a certain age, most girls pan anything in pink as too babyish for them. A lot of boys prefer clothing in subdued colors, such as navy, black or gray, vs. bright hues. Jeans, sweats or leggings beat out dressier pants for most schoolchildren.

As students enter middle school or start high school, take them shopping with you for school supplies and clothing. However, continue to follow the “wait-til-school-starts rule.” Make sure children of all ages understand that parents get the final say as long as they’re picking up the tab. Start delivering that message while kids are in preschool. Let them know you’re willing to negotiate on products and prices . . . but stick to a set budget for children’s back-to-school buys.

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