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Back-to-school shopping is stressing us out

Chaya Cooperberg

Published Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009 08:28AM EDT

Last updated Monday, Sep. 10, 2012 12:29PM EDT

My eldest is entering Senior Kindergarten this September and I will be taking her shopping soon for her first backpack and lunchbox. I'm looking forward to the outing and am curious to see what motif she'll choose. Will it be Dora the Explorer, her favourite character in pre-school, or has she graduated to Hannah Montana?

Many of my friends, though, dread the shopping that accompanies back-to-school season. They have children in the elementary grades, and schools have sent them long and highly specified lists of supplies to buy.

One friend's list demands particular colours for each binder, duotang and notebook that will be used in her daughter's first-grade class. She was thrown into a panic yesterday when she discovered all of the first-grade colours had sold out in neigbourhood stores.

My Facebook page is filled with friends frantically sharing tips on where to go for the best prices on pencil crayons and coloured pens. Big box retailer Wal-Mart is emerging as an early favourite, but dollar stores are quickly gaining ground. One mother of three is patiently holding out for the final clearance sale at Winners in the last week of August.

This summer it seems there is a heightened sense of stress over back-to-school spending. Surveys show that sales are expected to be two to three per cent lower, Globe and Mail retail reporter Marina Strauss , as consumers wait for better deals.

But wait too long, and all of the red notebooks for history class may be gone. A better approach may be to follow the lead of frugal parents who have figured out the secrets of back-to-school savings.

The blogger behind has come up with eight ways to save on supplies.

His ideas include first checking your home inventory of school supplies and then creating a shopping list to avoid unnecessary purchases. He recommends compiling the list with your child, which will help reduce their pleas for products they don't need. Also, set a fixed budget and use the experience to teach your children how to shop within a spending limit.

The also offers parents some advice to avoid breaking the bank this school season. Keep track of what you're spending, they say, by holding on to all of your receipts. Perhaps the easiest way to avoid overspending may be just sticking to cash and leaving the plastic at home. Shop with the cash you've budgeted for supplies and you can avoid a nasty credit hangover in September.