How to survive back-to-school shopping with children


Some people love to shop. I am not among them. For me, back to school shopping is to be withstood, not enjoyed. But even people who enjoy the shopping experience may find it harder with kids in tow. How can you get everything they need for back to school when the kids are intent on stopping at the toy aisle of every store and begging for all the candy?

Make a plan

Start with a list of what you need and plan your attack ahead of time. Making a budget helps too. Even very young children can understand that if you spend more on one item, you may not be able to spend as much on the next. Older children can help plan the budget and keep track of what’s being spent.


Tackling your child’s room before heading out to the stores can help you determine exactly what is needed. This is a great time to organize and see what is and isn’t already there.

Go just after a meal

Right after breakfast is a great time to shop. The stores are less crowded earlier and everyone’s on a full tank. If you can’t go right after breakfast, try right after lunch.

Bring snacks and water

Nothing makes a shopping trip harder than a hungry or thirsty child. Pack some cheese sticks and a bottle of water and you won’t have to stop your school shopping to buy food.

Shop ahead

Some items will be on the list year after year. If you pick these up ahead of time you may be able to find them on sale. Just after a season ends can be a great time to pick up out of season merchandise. If you have the storage space at home, try getting a hat or mittens just after hat and mitten season, for example.

Shop online or do a curbside pickup

Amazon and other online retailers carry many of the necessary back to school items without having to leave home.

Go when they are well rested

A well rested child will be less likely to protest your limits than a cranky one. No one likes to hear “no” but it’s easier to hear after a full night’s sleep.

Make sure you are also well rested

The same goes for the grownups! The crowds will seem less suffocating and the traffic jams less frustrating if you’ve had your rest.

Go without them

This is obviously the easiest. It works for pencils, markers, and crayons. It may not work out as well if new shoes are on the list. Still, if you can manage to go without the kids, this will greatly reduce the amount of time you must spend shopping.

Choose your battles

This oft repeated guidance applies to back to school shopping too. This may not be the time to critique your child’s unique style. And maybe you can give in to a treat here or there.

Try for a positive attitude

Shopping with your child can be a great time to see his or her particular style and to spend time with your child.


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