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Top 5 ways to survive back-to-school shopping

Author James Dunsford
Submitted 12-08-2010

It’s mid-August. Your summer has been spent picking sand out of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, trucking the kids to and from basketball camp, applying bandages and anti-itch cream to the bug bites they received daily at said camp, and trying to steal a few quiet moments for yourself in the hammock.

Thankfully all things must end. September looms in the not-so-distant future and back-to-school-shopping is almost upon us.

If your wife has been dropping hints that you will be the one checking the items off of the kids’ school supplies lists as you drag them through the fluorescent-lit aisles of the nearest office super store, here are five don’ts to help you through the experience.

1. Don’t pawn the task off on a babysitter. It may be tempting to slip your tried-and-true au pair a few extra bucks and ask her to take the kids shopping, but this plan could easily backfire if your wife catches wind of your intentions, or if the sitter decides to outfit your son with a Bratz-themed book bag and three packs of purple pens.

2. Don’t let the kids attempt this solo. Though you could try to justify this as a way to teach them independence and budgeting, handing them a few 20s and dropping them off at the mall before heading to the driving range has its risks. When they pile back into the car with shopping bags full of Snickers and Silly Bands, and there’s nary a number 2 pencil in sight, you may regret your choice.

3. Don’t pregame for the event. Cracking open a few beers and convincing your brother-in-law to DD while you peruse the wide-ruled notebooks and play with the protractors may seem like the best way to weather the arduous task, but it’s unlikely that your buzz will last for the duration of the trip. You’ll be dealing with a hangover while your daughter begs you for gel pens and a Lisa Frank folder.

4. Don’t insist that school supplies are just another way for big business to control our spending. The other parents will judge you when your daughter takes class notes with chapstick and your son carries his lunch in a grocery bag.

5. Don’t procrastinate until the day before school starts. It’s not easy to muster up the will required to hit the stores ahead of time, but when a man walks into a Staples on the day before classes commence, he needs to have his guard up. You haven’t seen competitive until you’ve observed two mother-and-daughter duos fighting it out for the last pink North Face backpack.

Though it’s not likely to be fun, think of back-to-school shopping as a dry run for the approaching holidays – the list is made, the clock is ticking and if you don’t come through you’ll have some explaining to do.
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