Tips for Back-to-School Shopping – As seen on ABC 7 News + more!

I was so flattered when ABC 7 Chicago asked me to come back to their studio bright and early today to talk again about savings on back to school shopping. This year I was really focused on gear versus supplies; for some reason the supply list is very short. Plus, I love to shop and bargain shop. And shop some more.

So here are my tips and tricks for saving on back to school gear, supplies, tech and more for kids of all ages and stages.

backpackScreen Shot 2013-08-09 at 11.12.44 AM1)   Backpacks: Backpacks are a must to buy FIRST! Seems like they are always out of stock and usually they are on sale so you can get the best price on the styles you want. Target.com has a slew of backpacks on sale currently at about 20% off plus free shipping – you can avoid the lines!

Also, it is smart to buy a higher quality backpack – this year I found a past-season Patagonia one on sale for my little guy for under $40 and free shipping. I’ve gotten lots of tips that Lands End has a guarantee on its backpacks – that it will replace broken zippers and the like – prices starting at around $39, plus you can monogram it so that your child theoretically doesn’t lose it.

2)   Utilize your network and others to find deals: Friends aren’t just good for going to the movies or lunch – they also usually have kids your kids’ age. So why not get a group together for a clothing swap? I’ve given plenty of good barely-worn baby clothes to my neighbor.  You can find some local clothing swaps by searching Meetup.com. In addition, you can find really key school clothing pieces at secondhand shops in your local neighborhood or on a site like http://www.thredup.com/  – an online consignment shop specializing in providing high-quality like-new clothes at reliably low prices.

3)   It might be hot out but buy your winter gear now! By the time it is cold out, you’ll never find long underwear, snow pants, mittens, hats and gloves. Plus now there are major past-season sales going on where you can save up to 40% off winter gear. I love www.backcountry.com, rei.com and sierratradingpost.com.

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4)   Utilize coupons or discount codes- According to National Retail Federation, 36% of parents will do more online comparison shopping to find the best back-to-school deals. I never shop online without looking for a coupon code first. I use retailmenot or coupon cabin to score the most recent codes, or you can use a site like www.cardpool.com to score discounted gift cards to over hundreds of retailers.  (I saw discounts for LL Bean). Other good sites are pricegrabber.com, the ShopGenius App, RedLaser App and Decide.com.
5)   Buying for college? Your college-bound kiddos may be craving some brand name labels to take to college and you’re in luck with the opening of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago – http://www.fashionoutletsofchicago.com/ – they just opened ten days ago and are having lots of special sales and offerings for their grand opening – check their offers page for the latest. Bloomingdales Outlet there has a great sale going on through today – up to 60% off discounted prices – it’s a great place to get brand name coats, polo shirts, and denim for your high school grad.

shoes16) Tips for shoe buying: Kids grow out of shoes fast. And shoes are expensive. Famous Footwear has some good tips for shoe shopping – buy versatile shoes that you can wear with many occasions and that have a little extra wiggle room in the toe area. Famous Footwear is also offering a BOGO offer for buy one, get one half off at all Famous Footwear locations and also online at famous.com. 

Last minute Mother’s Day Must-Haves and Must-Dos…

I’m going on CBS 2 Chicago to discuss last minute Mother’s Day gift ideas. I was so bad this year, barely getting my mom’s present in time. (Luckily, this afternoon still counts for getting it in time).

But if you’re still looking for some good gift ideas, I have scouted out some of the best last-minute options for you. Now, go on and shop!!

I have couple ideas for last minute activities if this gorgeous weather holds up. Sometimes it’s fun to have a Mother’s Day experience that goes beyond brunch.

  • Odyssey Cruise Mother’s Day Brunch — I love seeing the Chicago skyline from the water and while my kids love the water taxi it lacks a little ambiance for 0789_Boat_Headermoms. The big Odyessy ship just underwent a $2 Million renovation and moms can have a choice of an early (10:30 am) or late (2:30 pm) meal aboard the ship starting at $64.90. Kids are 40% off adult price and moms will love the complimentary champagne, rose and rooftop lounge.
  • Susan G Komen Race for the Cure – What better way to spend Mother’s Day than for walking in support of breast cancer? This year, the race starts in Butler Field at Grant Park and includes a 10K or 5K race. Registration is still open tomorrow on site starting at 6:30 am. The Daley family will serve as Honorary Chairs of the race to celebrate the life of Chicago’s former first lady Maggie C. Daley and the passion and energy she displayed as a mom and breast cancer survivor. Registration starts at $35.

But if you want to sleep in or want to give something more tangible I have some cool ideas for last minute gifts, too.mom-wine-water-bottle

  • Psychobaby Happy Hour Water Bottle, $18 – This is a great and practical gift for the mom who has a sense of humor – you can get a customized aluminum water bottle made for you at Psychobaby in Bucktown overnight to surprise and delight mom for a Sunday happy hour. Wine not included!
  • Lill Studio customized bags – Isabel Messenger bag in Blue Ikat Dots $92 and Lilli Tote in Baltic Blue, $169. I got the idea of Lill Studio bags from a friend who goes to the store every year with her mom to design a bag for Mother’s Day. I love the messenger, hands-free style for a busy mom on the go (who wants a shoulder bag at the park), and the carryall tote for those big outings. Plus, they have hundreds of fabrics and patterns to choose from. Also Lill is running a promotion that if you design a full price bag with your aunt/ sister/ mother/ daughter through tomorrow you get 30% off your purchase.
  • KLUTCHclub/KLUTCHmom – KLUTCHclub is a monthly subscription service that sends a hand-picked and “themed” box of holistic health, fitness and wellness products – organic protein bars, workout wear, skincare products, teas, etc. – right to your doorstep every month, making it a no brainer to incorporate healthier choices with ease. Price ranges around $17 per month; subscriptions are 1, 3 and 12 months.
  • Rachel Barton Pine – lullabies CD – Our editor at Chicago Parent loves this CD so much that I had to share it. Pine, who has released more than 20 albums, including CDs of heavy metal violin music, has added a softer selection to her collection — a CD of instrumental lullabies recorded with pianist Matthew Hagle. She ended up finding 150 classical lullabies from various parts of the world, then set about the task of narrowing it down to 25. You can download it on iTunes!
  • Me Smooth –  Perfect for the busy mom who doesn’t have time to get her beauty treatments, the me Smooth removes unwanted hair safely and effectively and is pain free! Costs husband a fraction of what it would in the doctor’s office… and makes the morning shaving routine so much easier and quicker.  Plus you can pick it up at Sephora, Ulta, Bloomies, Nordstrom and Nieman Marcus! Costs $395
  • Lush “Cream of the Crop” Flower Soaps a selection of innovative re-usable bubble bar wands especially for mom – all are on sticks, so they are easy to tuliopswish around the bathtub creating masses of skin softening, beautifully-scented bubbles.  Then place on the side of the tub and allow it to dry, so it’s ready to use again and again (you can get up to six baths out of each).  We suggest giving mom all three to make a gorgeous bubble bouquet. Some are vegan and start at $8.95 each.  Lush stores are at Macy’s, Bucktown, Lincoln Park, and Old Orchard.

Massive March Holidays… my latest for Chicago Parent

march2013The month is so packed with holidays it makes my head spin. Easter, Passover both the same week and well, we barely survived the traffic during St. Patrick’s Day over here. I did put together a few tips, though, on what to do in the city with your kiddos for these two major religious and celebratory holidays. For my latest Chicago Parent column and March holiday Madness click here!