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Stay sane during back-to-school madness

Whether you’re bitterly paying the last few installments on day camp tuition or enjoying lazy mornings and afternoon pool time, the fact is another summer is now winding down. Before you know it, it will be the first day of school.

First day of school - Back-to-school time

Contributed by Jenny Brown

The first day of school is just weeks away for many districts, which means it’s time to get organized and figure out how you’ll avoid all the tussles and strife that plagued you last year. Here are three things you can do now to prepare for a smooth start to the new school year.

Pick up new threads

Buying back-to-school clothes is either the best or worst part of getting ready for a new semester. Whether you love it or abhor it, it pays to be savvy about how and when you do your shopping. If you love the store experience, try to shop weekdays and early in the morning to avoid crowds and long lines. But if the real-world retail experience just isn’t your thing, online shopping can be the perfect solution. Many stores offer free or discounted shipping for certain purchases or even quick and easy store pickup.

Just make sure you understand the school dress code before you shop, and take advantage of sales and shopper programs to save money. Sears, for example, is offering $10 off a school uniform purchase of at least $75 (promo code: Dockers10). That’s basically a free shirt! And Shop Your Way Rewards members get double the discount and free shipping (promo code: Dockers20).

Gather school supplies

If you forgot to pre-order your child’s school supplies when the form came home in the spring, then you’ll need to brave the crowds to gather them now. In addition to the cool backpack and matching lunchbox kids tend to want at the start of a new year, you need to find all those specific items on the school-issued supply list. Teachers often want each student to bring a particular brand of pencils, organizers and tissues. To avoid overspending on these items or running around to multiple stores in the hours leading up to the first day, keep your supply list in your car or bag so you have it within reach every time you shop.

If you find a good deal on items that are likely to break or need replacing during the year, stock up! Keep the extras in a basket and hand ’em out when the need arises. Or, if you’re a bit too clutter-phobic for stockpiling, consider getting the Staples Back-to-School Savings Pass. Buy the pass until August 31 ($10) to save 15 percent on school supplies until September 21. Staples Rewards members earn an additional 5 percent in rewards.

Update vaccinations

Ideally, children get a wellness checkup each year. Many of these visits include vaccination shots — for young children as well as older kids and teens. Even though no federal laws mandate vaccinations, many states have vaccination requirements for students to attend public schools. Some private schools also require certain vaccinations. Make sure your child is current on his or her shots. If you’re not sure, call your family’s pediatrician as soon as possible and ask the team to check your child’s records and to send you a copy. Most offices will provide these services for no charge.

If your child does need a vaccine, keep in mind that doctor offices are slammed during late summer for back-to-school physicals and vaccinations. Allow some time for the office to respond to your information request and make time for your appointment.

About the author

Jenny Brown is a professional writer and frugal mom of two girls. She’s a Girl Scout troop leader, PTO community fundraising chair and a senior editor at DigitalRelevance. She writes on a range of topics, including travel, the arts and community development. Jenny has a B.A. degree in journalism from Miami University (Ohio).

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