School Savvy – A parent’s guide to surviving the “Tweenage-Experience”


There’s so many things to consider and do as July winds down. August brings with it a breakup with lazy beach days and  captured sunsets. The excitement and anxiety build the closer September nears, Summer-Savvy-Mom-Sumers begin our dreaded relationships with cost and debt.

Let’s face it, times are tough, money is tight, and graduation isn’t exactly tomorrow. TRANSLATION – ” Sell a kidney or the firstborn, get a 3rd job, or shop smarter.”

If you are below the U.S. average  median income level set around $44,512.00 for Massachusetts – September’s approach is in essence when parents begin dating “mixed-emotions”. We are usually ready for the 6 hour break from sunblock slathering, watermelon stained whites, and pool noodle battles. The responsibility of getting our offspring ready to be educated, can also be irritatingly informative and stressful for us.
– That’s not “in style”!
– So and So’s mom or dad brought them to ____ to get their _____.
– You have no taste. You’re crazy, I’m not wearing that!
– Then I’ll just go naked!

These are just some of the ever-uplifting statements our kids (pre-teen aka tweenagers – and real teens) use regularly.
We clearly can’t let them be in “financial control”. They still forget to wipe all the spaghetti sauce out of the corners of their mouths.
But we’re supposed to entrust them with school shopping?

Unless you are rich or brain-damaged you will quickly agree that this is not an option.

So today as you catch some rays while tweedle dee and tweedle duh fight over spit balls, XBox or Barbie’s new haircut. Take a minute to strategize. Let us create a plan of attack.

Our Army of one, or two if the other parent so chooses to enter the combat zone – CAN BE VICTORIOUS THROUGH UNITY AND PREPAREDNESS.

Taking the seemingly endless needs of our (School Year Succubus) and exorcising those demons before they can potentially possess our children can be difficult but not impossible.


At the end of every season, most retailers, and online stores run mark down and clearance specials.These end of season weekend wormholes offer us the opportunity to plan. Using a season to season shopping strategy, can save you both a headache and a lot of money over the course of a year.

A sign offering big savings in the back to school supply department is pictured at a Target store in Los Angeles, August 18, 2009.  REUTERS/Fred Prouser

( I have been fortunate enough that my kids have grown size wise according to the average percentile when my daughter was 2 she was in a 2T, 4 years old she was in a 4T etc.)

The estimated size for the following year has always been age appropriate allowing me to buy next yeas Autumn attire this fall. At prices between 25% and 75% or more the t-shirts in every color at $1.00 a piece came in very handy. As she got older I was able to cater the clothing to her interests of that year. Iron-ons, glitter, jewels, transfers etc. allowed for cheap personalization – and a happy kid.

The good thing about this method is that it’s never something they can really outgrow. EVERY TIME I see a clearance or really good BOGO sale, I INVESTIGATE. I’ve been known to search said racks till the following season just to find the steals and deals.


Though older kids are a lot harder to please, the fundamentals of “Jr. High” and “High School”  fashion trends are at the very least manageable.  Usually the top 3 or 4 brands remain the “must-haves” throughout a 4 year period, At the end of the season rally up a couple moms or a best friend with soldier abilities ans commercial combat experience – and head out for a day at the nearest Brand Outlet Stores.  Stick to a budget or a few rules. Example: Make a limit for purchases, a max of $15.00 for outerwear or winter apparel. A five dollar max on t-shirts, $75.00 max on sneakers or boots. If it’s not on sale DO NOT BUY IT… You need to remember that you are a year ahead of yourself. THEY AREN’T GOING TO NEED IT THIS YEAR…   A $200.00 shopping trip could yield a wardrobe for 3 kids with all basic clothing needs.

Take advantage of student discounts and apps with promo codes.

Comparison shop, save the receipts from expensive yearly buys like sneakers and jackets – they usually offer as much as 30% of the next purchase. Try to combine the coupons with store sales and even seasons end sales to get the absolute lowest price possible. Store loyalty cards offer even more savings.

Where school supplies are concerned twice a year Staples, Wal-Mart, and a few other stores will run cent sales –

Notebooks at .25 cents a piece

Crayons at .50 cents a piece

ETC. Whenever possible I stock up on Pens, #2 pencils crayons, etc. When I am able I buy enough to at least begin the next year.

Get your kids in the habit of giving and donate a backpack a year. Have your little ones select their supplies according to taste, and then have them pick special colors etc. for someone in need. Shelters, local churches and schools, even some nightlife venues run school supply drives.

FINALLY the last thing I would suggest  is frequenting the local thrift stores and FB stores and yard sales. Especially first thing in the morning and as they restock at night. Your chances of scoring a name brand, or brand new item.

If you can keep yourself nourished, catch at ;least 6 hours of sleep a night, and taking a multivitamin with your turbo coffee wouldn’t hurt either. Making it through another 4 seasons could save enough for a rewarding weekend at a Four Seasons.

Written By: Heather Cornell


Published by: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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