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Shop smart to cut back-to-school costs
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Getting ready for the new school year can be expensive, but parents don't have to give up the budget in frustration when it's time to buy back-to-school supplies.
The beginning of the school year means children need seasonal clothes and a whole list of school supplies. Purchased at one time, the bill can be staggering, especially when shopping at the last minute or for more than one child.
Susan Cosgrove, area family resource management agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said budgeting and shopping around are keys to spending less when getting the kids ready to start school.
"Before you go shopping, take an inventory of what you already have that can be used again," Cosgrove said. "Set aside a specific amount of money to be spent on each child, and make a list of what items you need to buy."
Cosgrove said to shop first for shoes and other expensive items, then most-needed items such as khakis, jeans and separates. Shop when stores are less crowded and don't put off shopping until just before school starts. End-of-season sales are good places to find items in basic colors and styles that can be worn for more than one season.
"If your child goes with you, use the opportunity to demonstrate comparison shopping, how to determine the quality of garments and the importance of clothing care labels," Cosgrove said. "With older children, consider giving them a certain amount of money as a clothing budget and let them select their own items."
When shopping for children that are growing quickly, look for pants with cuffs that can be turned down to add length and adjustable straps on jumpers. Pants with full or partial elastic waists or drawstrings allow clothing to expand with the child. Shoes should be wide enough to allow wiggle room for toes and long enough to allow one-half to three-fourths an inch from the end of the shoe to a thumb placed on the tip of the child's toe.
"Make sure that the growing room does not compromise a child's safety. Too long drawstrings or shoelaces can be dangerous if they catch on play equipment or other items," Cosgrove said.
She cautioned against spending much money on trendy items. Not only are these fashion items usually expensive, but their popularity does not last long. Cosgrove suggested buying a few accessories or fashion coordinates to update a wardrobe in the latest styles if the budget permits.
"Try on everything and realize that something doesn't have to be real expensive for it to be good looking and of good quality," Cosgrove said.
While clothing is the big back-to-school expense, supplies can add up, too. Find out what each child is required to have for the next school year, and shop early for these items. Lists are available at school district offices, but also at many retail outlets. Shop around for best prices and quality, and save receipts in case anything must be returned.