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. 

Photo me not

It occurred to me not too long ago that I have no framed photos of my baby in my house. I searched from room to room and all I could find was a newborn shot that our photographer took last year. It’s hidden up in my bedroom so only I see it. Other than that, all the frames in my house are filled with my eldest and of my husband and I when we looked a lot younger. (OMG the GRAY!)

However, I have been pretty good about getting photos, while not up in print around my house, into electronically-produced photo books. The kind where I can go online and select some photos I uploaded and click to put them on pages and then click to buy the book. It’s not the most creative way to record my family history but it’s efficient and effective. And, it just so happens I’ve been doing this through Kodak Gallery for the last 4 years. All on my own.

So, when Kodak Gallery approached me last month about trying out their new photo book process and they’d pay me for trying out that process it was a natural fit. Plus, I realized I hadn’t put together books since my baby turned 5 months. Clearly, there is some sort of deficit in my brain.

With Halloween photos and birthday party photos piling up in my iPhoto tray, I was really excited to bring them to life outside my beautiful Mac screen. iPhoto has this great feature that lets you automatically upload to Kodak Gallery with the click of one button. Again, click.

On Monday I uploaded 191 precious photos into 2 separate albums on Kodak Gallery and then organized them into two different photo books. I had some trouble clearing out the photos from the first book to put in the second book, but I realized my mistake after about a minute (you must “clear tray” before you create the book), and then sorted it out. In about 5 minutes, after uploading time, I had 2 books for the last 3 months of my kids’ lives. Seriously. That easy. After checking out early Tuesday morning I was told late yesterday that my order had already partially shipped.

That’s about 3 months of photo work memorialized forever in 2 days. And the quality of the new books seem great. I chose one medium and one small and I’m happy with the way the pages were automatically laid out. Now, I just need to get some of those prints into some frames around my house before the baby realizes he basically doesn’t exist outside my bedroom.

Does this ease of memorializing your family sound appealing to you? Well good! Because I have TWO $75 gift cards to giveaway from Kodak. It’ll buy you about 3 small books with 30 pages each or a small and extra-large amount of photos medium book. Just tell me that you’re more unorganized than me when it comes to photo documentation in the comments or give me a tip about how to become better organized, and I’ll enter you into a raffle to win the gift card. Contest will end on 12/1 just in time to get your books for the holidays. You can comment once here and once on my Chicago Parent blog to enter twice, if you like!

Cross-posted to Second-City Baby.

Disclosure: I was given a $75 gift card to post about my experience using Kodak Gallery plus purchase my photo books.

Wish I may, wish I might… Have a discount at Wishcraft this week!

A special offer for Chicago readers brought to you by A Hen and Two Three Chicks and Self-Made Mom!

We are always looking out for our readers, and we know our local friends cannot possibly miss a deal as good as this. What kiddie class isn’t made better with a friend? If you have a creative kiddo at home, you won’t want to miss this amazing, limited-time-only deal from the popular Wishcraft craft studio in Roscoe Village.

The clever ladies behind Wishcraft are offering a special “2-for-1 Bring a Friend Along” promotion from September 7-10th only. You can sign your kid and a crafty buddy up for any of the Fall 2010 craft classes and split the price of the 8-week session. That’s 50% off the regular cost  – a total steal!

The class offerings at Wishcraft go way beyond your typical kiddie craft projects. Cool options include Dim Sum Paper Fun (ages 3-5) and It’s Sew Easy (age 7+). Kids can even make their own Halloween costumes or fashion eco-friendly accessories.

Wishcraft has morning and mid-day classes for wee ones and afterschool programming for school-aged kids. They even have classes for adults looking to hone their sewing or crochet skills! Check out their full schedule online to see all of the awesome choices.

Here are the deets on how to get in on this deal:

  • The promotion applies only to new students for the 2010 Fall session.
  • The promotion does not apply retroactively.
  • If you register online, you can pay the full price for one student, enter the second student’s name in the “comments to seller” box and split the costs yourselves.. Or you can email the folks at Wishcraft at wishcraft@me.com with the info for both students and they will send PayPal links with the 50% discount to each person. Discount code to reference is “Tell 2 Friends.”

If you want to take advantage of this great deal on kid’s craft classes, you have to move fast – the special 2-for-1 promotion is only valid through September 10th. Classes start the week of September 13th.

Want to know more about all of the good stuff happening at Wishcraft? Follow their Twitter updates or become a Fan on Facebook. Got questions? Send them to wishcraft@me.com.

Now go get those (cheap! cheap!) classes. Your crafty kid will love you for it.

SMM Steals and Deals Update

I don’t like to post about sales and coupons too often, but I’m running two great promos on my Steals and Deals page that I think you all will like.

First, is a giveaway of a 14″ x 11″ personalized canvas by Hi There Press. There are hundreds of designs to choose from – all you have to do is upload your own photo and pick your preferred artwork and you will never have to look at another boring frame again. ($65 value too!) Just tell me in the comments where you’re gonna hang this sucker, and I’ll pick a winner on September 24. Plus, if you use the code HI20T38E, you will get 20% off your purchase the entire month of September! You cannot resist that!

Next, I have a great coupon code for the upcoming Disney on Ice Princesses show. Kind of ironic to be the mom of 2 boys posting about this, but the folks at Feld have been so nice to me over the years, I am happy to share the discount. And I’m sure the show will be great!

If you have a great local steal or deal for me, please feel free to send it to selfmademom(at)sbcglobal(dot)net.

But, beware, I am pretty picky.