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Alderman: Parents: Don’t let back-to-school tasks sneak up on you

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opinion Fargo, 58102
West Fargo Pioneer
(701) 241-5487 customer support
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

By Jason Alderman

Parents, if this is your first time at the back-to-school rodeo, let me share a few lessons my wife and I have learned the hard way. Chances are you’ll be spending the next few weeks filling out piles of pre-enrollment paperwork, lining up carpools and, of course, taking the dreaded shopping excursions for clothes and school supplies.

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If you’re a first-timer or simply need a back-to-school refresher course, here are a few suggestions that can help you save time, money and sanity:

Get organized. Maintain a correspondence file from your kid’s school for things like registration requirements, report cards, permission slips, required vaccinations, school policies, teacher and parent contact information, etc. Ask whether the school has a website, online calendar or email list you can join. Also, create a family master calendar.

Back-to-school shopping. Between new clothes, classroom supplies and extracurricular activity fees and equipment, many parents end up spending hundreds of dollars per child. Ideally, you’ve been setting money aside all year. If not, you’ll need to determine what you can afford to spend without blowing your overall budget.

Here are a few organizational and money-saving tips:

E Before you shop, make a comprehensive list for each child. Use previous years’ expenses as a guide and compare notes with other parents and school officials.

E Engage your kids in the budgeting process. Share how much money is available to spend and get them involved in prioritizing expenses between “needs” and “wants.”

E Go through your kids’ closets and have them try on everything. Make an inventory of items that fit and are in good shape, and take it when shopping so you don’t accidentally buy duplicates. (While you’re at it, share, sell or donate unneeded items.)

E Spread clothing purchases throughout the year so your kids don’t outgrow everything at once. Many stores hold fall clearance sales to make room for holiday merchandise.

E Find out how much extracurricular activities (athletics, music, art, etc.) cost. Account for uniforms, membership dues, private lessons, field trips, snacks, etc.

E Clip newspaper and online coupons. Many stores will match competitors’ prices even if their own items aren’t on sale. Plus, many consolidation websites post downloadable coupons and sale codes for online retailers, including: CouponCabin.com, CouponCode.com, CouponCraze.com, DealHunting.com and Dealnews.com.

Bottom line: If you get organized before setting out on back-to-school shopping, you can save money, time and aggravation.

Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs. To Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.

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