Most of us parents would be lying if we didn’t admit to a tiny thrill of delight when the ringing of the autumn school bell draws near. But getting Jenn and Josh togged up and laden with all the gear can turn the dog days of August into something akin to holiday shopping on Dec. 24.

If you’d rather have a root canal than hit the mall with the hordes, turn the job over to the kids. It starts with a list of needs and wants, proceeds to a spending limit and ends, eventually, with “shoo, shoo” at the entrance to the mall.

Youngsters, obviously, will need supervision at all stages. But by working with a five-year-old now you are setting the stage for stress free back to schooling as they approach the pre-teen years.

My husband used to take our daughter clothes shopping by grabbing a coffee and a seat outside a mall store after turning her, list in hand, to a salesperson. Happiness all round.

Taking a page out of his parental survival playbook, divide the list into clothes, school supplies and ‘Please, MomDad!’ The younger ones usually love this process especially if you send them on a treasure hunt through the house to uncover what items from last season can be re-used, from protractor sets to shoes. If your kids really get into it they can trade among their friends.

The bribe here is this; the more you recycle, re-use and make-do the more you will have to spend on that awesome (fill in the blank).

Next, set a spending limit and dole out the cash. Try not to make decisions for them. As years go by you will shift from in-store accompaniment, to lounging by the door, to dropping them off, to letting them drive, cycle or bus to the mall themselves.

Mistakes will be made but you will be doing your kids and yourself a big favour by handing over the back-to-school shopping chores.

Alison’s Money Rule:
Three steps to eliminating back to school shopping stress – make a list, set a limit and let’em at it.

– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at

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