Life and Style Today with Nina Shay

Shopping for back-to-school clothes with your tween or teen? It can be fun and educational if you start out with a plan. Here are 7 planning strategies to help turn your nightmare at the mall into a successful and stress-free shopping experience both you and your child can enjoy.

· Take inventory. Start by weeding through clothes that are too small, worn-out or simply not appreciated any longer. Toss the ones that have outlived their usefulness and donate the rest to charity. This will give you an uncluttered view of what your child needs and what additional pieces will enhance his or her wardrobe.

· Make a list. You must have a plan of attack. With a list in hand you can group your shopping needs by type of store and accomplish your tasks more efficiently. You'll also be less likely to buy items that your child doesn't need or won't use.

· Establish a budget. This will give your teen a clear understanding of what you can buy. With financial ground rules in place, you'll be able to teach money-management skills and how to "shop smart." If there's an expensive item that he or she simply must have, this would be a great opportunity to help your child learn how to prioritize by arranging for them to pay for the extra expense from their own earnings from either an allowance, job or otherwise.

· Check the sales and special promotions. In addition to storewide sales like end of summer and back to school sales, you can save money in many states by shopping on state-declared "tax-free" days, when state sales taxes are lifted during back-to-school season.

· Find out about your school's dress code. Many schools have dress codes in place to discourage clothes that suggest aggressive sexuality or gang membership. This means girls might need to avoid spaghetti straps, tank tops and low-cut jeans. Boys should know whether "sagging" trousers and certain colors or brand names associated with gangs are forbidden. This information can easily be obtained from your school PTA or administrative office.

· Remember, you don't have to do it all before school starts. Spreading your shopping out over the first few weeks of the school year is smart. It gives your student time to check out what his peers are wearing and to make any necessary wardrobe adjustments during later shopping trips. And it gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the sales.

· Be aware of marketing strategies aimed at kids. Teens, and most recently "tweens" (children ages 9 to 12), represent a lucrative market for retailers and advertisers. They've become the target of a steadily increasing barrage of messages telling them what clothes and looks are cool. As a parent, don't remove yourself from the equation. Talk to your child about how the media influences what we want and think we need.

· And last but not least: Don’t forget who’s buying. Stand firm on your values and your boundaries.