One of the big issues for most parents as they prepare for school in the fall is paying for what their kids want versus what they really need for the upcoming school year.
Cheryl H. Bridges, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, offers the following thoughts:
• With household budgets stretched, shoppers are likely to be even more selective with their purchases. Back-to-school shopping is a great time to give kids lessons in money management. Given a budget for what they can spend, have kids list what they really need, like school supplies and uniforms first. Ask them to compare prices online and visit different stores to find the best deal. Then make a list of what they really want and see if the wants and needs fit within the budget.
• As shoppers stretch dollars, more parents than ever are trying new outlets such as Goodwill, consignment shops, dollar stores and sales in department and discount stores to find deals on name-brand items. If you find a super deal on school supplies, consider purchasing enough to last for several months.
•Parents and kids can also shop in their own homes – look for gently used pens, pencils, calculators and other supplies and recycle them. Let kids organize a storage shelf or closet for school supplies that can be used again.
• The high price of being cool includes iPads, iPhones, Nooks, Kindles, computer notebooks and upgrades that have become nearly ubiquitous among students of all ages. What’s too much? Perhaps some of these items, gently used, are just fine.
• Parents can save a bundle on back-to-school clothing if they (or their kids) can wait for September sales, but does anyone really wait? Waiting until September may have been a traditional method to save on opportunistic buys, but with inventories more available online, that hot item might not be there in September. Still, lots of kids will retain some of their back-to-school allowance to be sure they can purchase the cool items others have the first week of school.
• Tax-free weekends will occur in several states. Take advantage of these for extra savings.
• For retailers in college towns, the back-to-school season is almost as good as Christmas. What do savvy retailers such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond do to attract these 18- to 21-year-olds and their parents to their stores? Some create a dorm package complete with bedding, lamps and accessories.
• Classics return in new form in apparel: For guys and girls, plaids and checks paired with jeans are new again, along with graphic Ts. For girls, the feminine trend continues with ruffles in tops, skirts and dresses. Look to classily stylish Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, for trends that appeal to many girls of all ages.