Earn an A+

(Family Features) Back-to-school season means it’s time to get back to the business of learning. This year you can ace your back-to-school shopping excursion with these time- and money-saving steps that can make getting the whole family ready for a new school year a breeze.

Start with a list.
Walking into the store without a list is an open invitation for impulse buys and forgotten items that end up costing you more time and money with a return trip. Create a thorough list by categorizing all the items you’ll shop for, such as supplies, electronics and clothing. If you want to take an extra-organized approach, try color coding items by the section of the store where you would expect to find them.

Set a budget.
Knowing what you can afford to spend ahead of time can save regret and returns after you shop. Calculate how much you’ll need to cover all the items your students truly need, then tack on some room for wants. One must-have is a high-quality backpack, like the High Sierra Access Backpack, which includes a dedicated storage area for your child’s laptop, among other features. If your total budgeted expenses exceed your available funds, consider browsing weekly circulars to keep your budget in check.

Explore your inventory.
It may be buried under a summer’s worth of knick-knacks, but digging out the supplies your child cast aside at the end of the last school year may be worth the effort. Items like scissors, rulers and protractors may not need to be replaced every year if they’re still in working condition. Assess what items you have that can be reused and those that need to be replaced for the new school year.

Cut extra stops.
Dashing all over town to find all the items on your supply list is not only time-consuming, it’s unnecessary. At stores like Office Depot and OfficeMax, you can find all the academic tools and supplies your student needs to head back to the classroom. What’s more, a store that specializes in school supplies will have a broad selection and ample stock of the essentials.

Try online shopping.
When you know exactly what you need, shopping online is a great time-saving solution. Online shopping makes it incredibly simple to keep tabs on your budget before you make purchases and easily keep track of the items in your shopping cart. If you need to hand-select a few items in person, you can always take advantage of a “buy online, pick-up in store” option. This service lets you do your shopping from home with just a quick stop in-store to pick-up your purchases.

Buy in bulk.
It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re trying to trim your spending, but if you can swing it, go ahead and buy extra items that you’ll likely need to replace mid-year. The sale prices during the back-to-school season aren’t likely to repeat during the school year, so in the long run you’ll save money and avoid a last-minute shopping trip on a busy school night in the future. Items like Stellar fashion notebooks, which give note-taking a fashionable twist, are great to have on hand throughout the school year.

Research specials and promotions.
For many stores, the back-to-school shopping season is second only to the holidays. This means you can expect widespread sales, promotions and special deals, such as “deals as low as a penny.” Some states also offer tax-free holidays near the beginning of the school year, which are honored at multiple retailers and generally restricted to school-related purchases like clothing, supplies and some technology.

Weigh quality vs. quantity.
When you have a lengthy list of items to purchase for each child, it can be tempting to cut corners and skimp on spending. In some cases, being cost-efficient is smart, but do your research beforehand to avoid selecting items based solely on price. Value and quality don’t always go hand-in-hand and if you buy an item that falls apart or breaks down quickly, you may end up spending more to replace the items later. While it may be simpler for students to use printers and other machines at school, an all-in-one Epson Expression EcoTank Wireless Printer at home can be a convenient solution when late-night homework is bearing down.

Make dollars do double duty.
While most families expect to spend a sizable amount on back-to-school purchases (nearly $700, according to a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation), making that money go a little further can soften the blow. You can help improve education in your community by shopping at stores that give a percentage of proceeds back to local schools. Programs vary; in some cases, you can even designate proceeds to the school district of your choice.

Take more notes on smart back-to-school shopping ideas and deals at officedepot.com.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
Office Depot

New (School) Year, New You

(Family Features) Forget Jan. 1. Parents know the real new year begins when you can smell the fresh pink erasers and hear the clatter of brand new pencils on still-smooth notebook covers.

Even if you don’t have kids in school, the end of summer and the beginning of fall is a great time to reassess, realign, hit the restart button and make resolutions that will help carry your family smoothly through until next summer – or at least until the holidays.

Here are some tips from parents about resolutions they’ve made for the coming school year:

Learn to love mornings
My Life and Kids blogger Anna Luther said she used to hate mornings.

“It was a disaster,” she said. “There was a lot of yelling, a lot of missing socks, a lot of arguments about eating a good breakfast – it was just not the way to start a productive, happy day.”

Luther decided to turn the first – and worst – hour of her day into one of the best by waking up earlier, exercising and turning on music.

Luther also changed the way she looked at breakfast.

“It doesn’t have to be from scratch,” she said, “but it does have to have protein – and be fast. We love frozen breakfast burritos, for example.”

Empower the kids
Luther said that another thing that made mornings exhausting was that she tried to do everything herself, from finding socks and brushing hair to heating up healthy breakfasts.

But kids are eager to help, she said. Just like adults, they feel empowered when they can do things for themselves.

Luther decided to empower her kids and simplify her life at the same time by creating “Get Ready Buckets,” which hold everything they need to get moving in the morning, from hairbrushes to socks.

That same message of empowerment can simplify and improve other stressful times of day. Do the kids walk in the door hungry and cranky and leave you feeling the same way? Stock the freezer with hearty snacks, such as El Monterey Taquitos, that kids can heat up on their own.

Appreciate others
Blogger Kristyn Merkley of Lil’ Luna, has resolved to show the teachers in her life how much she and her family appreciate them.

“Our teachers put so much time and effort into their jobs,” Merkley said, “and we’re so grateful for that.”

While she usually gives teachers a gift card at the end of the year, she doesn’t wait until then to send notes and emails with a simple, “Thank you.” She also makes sure to say thanks in person – and in front of her kids.

Make fun a priority
There are plenty of must-dos on your list every day, but is fun one of them? Merkley said it should be, and she’s making family fun a resolution this school year. She collects activities on her blog that kids and adults can do together and plans family fun nights around them.

“When we laugh and make things and learn things together,” she said, “we’re making memories. I want my kids to remember their childhoods as more than just getting to school on time and cleaning their rooms.”

Be a team
Kristy Denney, of the Boys Ahoy blog, is raising three wild boys, as she calls them. But even the wildest of kids wants to know that you’re on their team – and they’re on yours. Denney and her husband, Brett, chose a family motto for the school year so that everyone on their family team knows what they’re working toward.

As their motto, the Denneys chose, “Work hard and be nice.” It’s simple, succinct and sums up what they want for their family.

Fuel up with real food
Kids have to eat, and most insist on eating three or more times a day. Denney said she loves to cook from scratch, but she doesn’t want time in the kitchen to keep her away from her family. So, this year, she’s resolving to focus on what’s important: real ingredients.

“Sometimes I’ll buy the ingredients myself to cook from scratch and sometimes I’ll look for foods I recognize on the label,” she said. “When I pick up El Monterey Signature Burritos, I see ingredients like fresh-baked tortillas, real cheddar cheese – foods I would buy anyway for my family, so I feel great about that.”

Make snacks work hard
Jess Kielman, who writes the blog Mom 4 Real, said that snacking can sometimes be a problem in her house. Kids (and adults) sometimes snack because they’re bored – or just out of habit, so she’s reining in snack time and making snacks work just as hard as meals.

“Protein and real food – that’s what I’m going to look for in afternoon snacks,” she said. “Something that fills the kids up and gets them ready to get back out the door and play, or buckle down and do their homework.”

Cheer on #momwins
Kielman said that this year her resolution is to start giving herself a little more credit for her “mom wins,” big or small.

“Checking off every last thing on my spring cleaning checklist is a win, for sure,” she said, “but so is a good, smooth morning with my family. So is a sit-down dinner that didn’t stress me out. So is feeling good about what we’re eating. So is every little hug. Those are all #momwins, and I’m going to give myself a little pat on the back for every one.”

For more breakfast, snack and dinner ideas to help you keep your family resolutions, visit ElMonterey.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (family eating)

SOURCE:
El Monterey



Online enrollment for 2015-16 will begin July 15

Online enrollment for the 2015-16 school year will be available Wednesday, July 15. All parents with a ParentVue account will be able to complete standard enrollment forms, pay for enrollment fees and school meals, and fill out free and reduced price lunch forms from a computer. Parents are encouraged to use this service in order to streamline the enrollment process. Returning parents who have not yet set up a ParentVue account should contact their child’s school for more information.

Enrollment information is online at www.enroll.usd259. org. Parents can find information about online enrollment, school supplies, immunizations, and other enrollment-related items. Parents new to the Wichita Public Schools can download and print out forms before they go to their child’s school to enroll.

Enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year is July 30 – 31, and August 3 – 4, 2015. The Wichita Public Schools will have consistent enrollment times at all schools to make it more convenient for parents who enroll multiple children at different schools. The enrollment times are:

• Thursday, July 30: Noon – 7 p.m.
• Friday, July 31: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
• Monday, August 3: Noon – 7 p.m.
Tuesday, August 4: Noon – 7 p.m.
The first day of school for all students is Tuesday, August 18 with a half-day orientation for 6th and 9th grade students on August 17.