“Common Ground” column for July 19, 2013

Every parent’s wake-up call to summer’s end are those ever-present back-to-school television commercials and retail flyers marking the season’s latest school wear and supply essentials.

I’ve learned from previous summers to never wait until the last minute to do school shopping for my three children. It can prove to be costly, exhausting and frustrating to find picked over school supplies and uniform sizes that are unavailable or sold out.

This month’s shopping plan is going to include a much more organized and budgeted approach.

Perusing Sunday’s newspaper ads proved helpful. I found “door buster” sales, “back to school dollar deals,” “2 for $1” discounts and coupons to clip .

I’m certainly not alone in my frugal spending plans this year. Many budget-conscious parents, 77 percent, say the economy is impacting their school spending plans during the second biggest shopping month of the year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Our children’s school supply fees are going to run about $60 or more apiece and that’s not including the new shoes, uniforms, classroom cleaning supplies, pencils, folders and other items.

American families of children in kindergarten through grade 12 spent about $690 on school-related items in 2012, according to National Retail Federation.

The survey also found that parents are looking for deals. Many, about 18 percent, will shop the Internet to compare prices and get the best bargains.

Couponing is also big. Some 36 percent of parents will use coupons to buy school supplies, and another 36 percent will buy generic items to save money, the survey said.

Parents are finding other ways to ease economic pressures including cutting back on their children’s extracurricular activities. Some 12 percent of parents in the survey said the cutbacks are as a result of the impact the economy has made on their budget. We’ve cut out my two daughters’ dance classes this school year to ease our pocketbook.

With so much attention on the economic costs of going back to school, there are other things that parents can do to prepare their children for school, including setting bedtime routines.

Preparation can also mean finding out which subjects and materials children need to freshen up on during the summer.

Parents can also prepare students by attending orientation days, meeting teachers and finding out what is expected of their child before the first day of school.

From planning on when and how to buy school supplies, to catching the best deals and helping children get mentally geared up for the first day of school, parents can make going back to school a less hectic and a much more pleasant experience this year.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.