It’s that time of the year again for school shopping and supplies. I began shopping for supplies in July. With a large family I always try and get a head start on things for them. So I started school shopping and am sharing some useful shopping tips….

Your kids may complain about being pulled out of the pool or off the baseball field to shop for back-to-school clothes, but this is an annual pilgrimage that can’t be avoided.

Plan shopping trips early for the best selection — and to make them easy on yourself and your kids.

1. Buy Only What’s Needed
Concentrate on the clothes your children really need: jeans, shirts, socks, underwear. Buy only one or two special outfits that your son or daughter “just has to have” and then wait until later to buy more.

Chances are your child will come home after a few days or weeks in school with completely different notions than she had in August. That is the time to buy a few more stylish outfits.

2. Don’t Shun Brand Names
While you want to teach your children that clothes are nothing more than outer, superficial trappings and that it’s what’s inside that counts, there are times when a brand name is appropriate.

If a certain brand is popular at your son or daughter’s school and he or she begs for it, give in if you can afford to. No need to go overboard or cave into every request, but wearing the “right” clothes might mean a lot to your child’s self esteem.

3. Teach Budgeting
If your children are old enough, they should understand that money is an issue when buying clothes. Tell them how much you have budgeted for their wardrobe and then let them shop within that range.

Certainly middle and high schoolers will understand this concept. Encouraging them to budget for themselves will teach them valuable lessons.

4. Make Life Easier
You’ll want to stock up on socks, underwear, and t-shirts for your kids. Trouble is, these items often look alike and get lost or confused in the laundry.

Buy socks in different colors and patterns — as wild as your child will permit. This way they will be easy to match.

Different brands of underwear often have different colored stripes or other markings, making them easy to sort after laundering. To keep your sanity when sorting laundry, use a laundry marker to write your child’s initials on a waistband or tag.

Color code your children’s everyday wardrobes. Maybe Susie’s t-shirts will always be pink and yellow, Debbie’s blue and lavender, and Billy’s green and brown.

Buy extras of all these workhorse items of clothing. Prices for these necessities are generally low during back-to-school shopping season.

5. Be Aware of Dress Codes
Some schools have dress codes. Be sure you understand them before your shop. Many schools forbid t-shirts with writing on them; others don’t allow hats, sandals, midriff-baring or crop tops, and short skirts.

You can make your own dress rules, too. What better time to explain them to the kids than during a back-to-school shopping spree?

Finally, label every piece of clothing that will be taken off or put on at school: jackets, sweaters, hats, mittens, gym clothes. This will not guarantee that nothing gets lost, but will increase the odds significantly that they will be found.

Wash the clothes before your children wear. Some fabrics are treated with chemicals that could irritate young skin or even smell unpleasant.

Keep these shopping trips reasonably short, if you can, and above all, try to have fun with your kids. Too soon they’ll be back in school and wrapped up in their busy lives!