With the fall semester looming (can you believe it’s only a month away?), parents everywhere are beginning to contemplate the smorgasbord of spending that accompanies the return to school. From clothing to supplies, your kids will push you to buy everything brand new. Then there is the bigger problem of preparing your children mentally and emotionally for the end of freedom that summer brings and the return to a structured lifestyle (insert tantrums). No matter what you do, it’s going to be hard to get your kids back into the school mentality, but there are a few things you can do to make the process go a bit more smoothly.

For starters, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg outfitting your children physically to undertake their mental pursuits. While they will undoubtedly place a lot of importance on maintaining their image in front of peers, you can limit your spending and still get them trendy new outfits. Instead of hitting up the department stores, opt for less expensive options like Target. They offer a lot of generic mix-and-match clothing that will expand the resources of a small selection of attire, as well as cooler items from labels like Paul Frank, Hello Kitty, and Converse. Plus, with the money you save, you can get them a few new accessories to customize their outfits. You can also check out the new and used offerings at Cheap Kids Clothes to save a bundle and get your kids a whole new wardrobe (search by size). They can’t try them on, but if you’re sure of their size, it shouldn’t make a difference.

As for school supplies, you’ll want to start by recycling whatever you can from the previous year. Dump out their backpacks (which have probably been sitting right where they left them at the end of May) and see what can be salvaged. No doubt you will find a pencil box full of unused items like erasers, pens, and pencils, as well as necessities like rulers and scissors. You will most likely have to get some new pens and glue, since they seem to expire, but re-using everything else will certainly save you some money. As for backpacks, most kids tend to thrash them pretty thoroughly, so you may have to find something new, but chances are that a good washing and some well placed patches will do the trick. Go for cool options like the embroidered patches found at Sticker Giant to salvage last year’s pack and let your kids express themselves.

Unfortunately, that was the easier part. Much more difficult will be getting your kids in the proper mindset to leave behind the lazy days of summer, return to a daily schedule, and focus on their studies. It can’t be easy getting locked inside a classroom when the birds and the bees are still merrily singing and buzzing just outside the window. But if you work things right, the transitions won’t be nearly so painful. If they haven’t been reading or practicing math over the summer, get them started as soon as possible. Start waking them up a little earlier each day and make them spend an hour or two reading or playing some math games on the computer. That way when you are forced to rouse them at 7:00 am and send them off for a day of study, it won’t be such a shock to their systems.

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