I have three children aged 11, seven and six. They are all in school and have different preferences when it comes to school shoe style, sports shoe style, water bottle style, colours, coloured pencils, pens, pencil cases, lunch boxes… Need I go on? Picture them — three gorgeous children, two of who have dimples, earnestly requesting obscure, difficult-to-find, and sometimes-expensive back-to-school products. And me — calmly negotiating with a promise (cough, bribe) to get them at least one obscure, difficult-to-find, sometimes-expensive back-to-school product.
The whole process could drive you mad, but I am a bit of an expert at the back-to-school shopping day now. Not to brag but it takes me one day, one shopping centre and one outing with the kids. In fact – and get ready to feel a bit sick – I actually enjoy the back-to-school shopping day.
Here are my top 6 tips for a stress free back-to-school shopping day:
1. Do it all in a day.
It’s a rookie error to stagger the back-to-school shopping over a number of days. Shopping centres during school holidays are not for the faint-hearted. You simply need to cram it all in one day. Get up early so you can park easily, start with coffee and hot chocolates all around and then head to the nearest and best shoe store to get your kids measured up for the school and sports shoes. Explain ahead of time your school’s individual requirements for school shoes. Our school needs the kids in hard-soled black shoes and “mostly white” sports shoes.
2. Don’t do it all with the kids.
The kids come along for the shoe shopping part because I need all their feet to be measured properly but after that it’s lunch, a quick stop by a stationary shop for a few personal choices and I do the rest without them, either later that afternoon or in the evening. In fact, it’s quite enjoyable to save the stationary shopping for late at night when all is quiet and you can think, and you can pick up a few sneaky things for yourself. It also helps to avoid that pesky problem whereby most stationary suppliers double as toy and confectionary shops.
3. Make lists.
From the outside I look like one of those deranged people who is glued to her smart phone when I really should be paying attention to where I am walking. In actual fact, I am going through an electronic list of things the kids’ need that I have constructed using the three separate “Required Materials” lists from their school. I check things off as I go and ensure nothing is forgotten. Making lists is how I relieve the almost constant stress of modern life.
4. Stick to a budget.
One of the least talked about causes of stress when it comes to the back-to-school shop is money worries, so when you do your list give yourself a budget, with just a little wiggle room. By knowing roughly what you are going to spend you won’t be in for any rude shocks later. If you manage to stretch your money further by taking advantage of sales and two-for-one deals, use that extra money to stock up on extras like socks and stationary, anything you think they may need topped up during the year.
5. Map it out.
I know my local shopping centre by heart and in my head I plan out exactly the route I’m going to take to do all of the back-to-school shopping. The starting point is always the shoe store. That’s the biggest purchase of the day. Then we go from there, tracing a large circle until all items on the list have been purchased, factoring in a few refreshment stops along the way. This minimises walking and therefore fatigue (for you and the kids) leaving you all feeling as though you are simply walking from the shoe store back to the car in somewhat of a clean loop, with a few detours.
6. Stay hydrated.
Keep yourselves watered and fed. You need all the energy you can muster. Even if you have to dip into some of the back-to-school snacks, do it.
And finally – good luck.
What are your tips for back-to-school shopping?