Tuesday, July 18, 2017

8 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid with Back to School Shopping

The idea to start this site was hatched as a Mom of a Kindergartner trying to figure out the what, where, & when of school shopping for a kid required to wear uniforms to school.  Since then, I've learned quite a bit about the brands, the retailers, and the trends.  Here is my list of Rookie Mistakes to Avoid for Back to School Shopping so you can avoid these errors and enjoy a stress free school shopping season.

Waiting Until Last Minute

The shopping season for school uniforms at major retailers begins at the beginning of July.  While that seems early, it's not.  If you try to wait until closer to the start of the school year, you will find that the styles and sizes are picked over, or worse, out of stock.  For the best selection, shop in July. More retailers carry school uniform clothing items at this time of year, even if they don't offer them year-round, which gives you more options.  At many retailers, I've seen the best prices of the season during July. The Uniform Mom Best Bets series recommends the target price that you can realistically expect to find quality uniform clothing items. During peak Back to School shopping season, you can find items at bargain basement prices at discount retailers and even the retailers known for the highest quality are known to discount their uniform items 40% or more.

Overlooking the Uniform Exchange Program

I bet your school has a uniform exchange program or uniform locker where you can get school uniform basics secondhand for a fraction of the retail cost, or even for free.  Ask the other Moms in the neighborhood or post a question on the school message board.  As fast as kids grow, you will be surprised to find quality items like new, or even some new with tags.  Be sure to check out Uniform Mom's tips for shopping uniform consignment events.  You can also check out the online consignment stores, such as Swap.com.  You won't find uniform items tagged or sorted easily, but filter down by brands, color and size to find options available.  

Failing to Know the Tax Free Holiday in your State

Many states offer break from sales tax for a weekend or even for a full week on items needed for school such as clothing, shoes and school supplies. According to the 2017 National Retail Federation's Annual Back to School Survey, families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $687.72 each.  Shopping during this holiday can save you an extra few percent on your Back to School haul.  Each summer, Uniform Mom publishes a list of tax free holidays in each state.

Waiting until Fall to Shop for Long Sleeve Polo Tops

When it is the middle of July, it is easy to overlook the long sleeve polo shirts hanging on the back to school display.  However, long sleeve polos are harder to find the longer you wait in the school year. (you can read about my hunt for the long sleeve polo here). By October, the retailers that don't carry uniforms year round are running out certain colors and sizes. Just save yourself the headache, and pick up at least 2 long sleeve polos during the peak Back to School shopping season.

Buying School Shoes too Early

One year, I picked up a pair of Mary Janes early in the Back to School season.  When my daughter put them on for the first day of school, she had already outgrown them.  I sent her to school wearing her PE shoes instead while I had to scramble that day to return them and find her hew ones that fit. ( I'd recommend you plan to hit the show stores about 2 weeks before school starts. You need to take the kids with you so they can get a proper measurement for sizing.

Buying the Cheap Shoes

Once.  Only once did I get my daughter a pair of school shoes at a discount retailer.  Basically, they lasted a week and I was out shopping again.  Shoes are probably the most expensive item on your back to school shopping list (okay at least while they are young), but spend the extra money to buy a pair of school shoes made with leather uppers.  Most shoe stores recommend you buy kids new shoes in a half size larger than the child's actual shoe size.  If they are over due for a growth spurt, you may be able to go up a full size with thicker socks, as long as the shoes aren't sliding around on their heels.  Once you find a quality shoe, it should last until the end of the school year or until they outgrow them.

Forgetting the Basics and the Accessories

Because of all of the Back To School clothing sales, it is a great time to stock up on basics like new underwear, undershirts, or bras.  But don't forget that your child might also need a new belt, tights, undershorts, or hair accessories.

Failing to Subscribe to the Uniform Mom Report Card

Each week, Uniform Mom lists the latest sales and coupon codes on schools clothing at major uniform retailers in the US.  If you're not already a subscriber, sign up so you always know what's on sale at each retailer and have a coupon code handy.

Photo Credit: For really #Big #Mistakes ...  Nadia Santoya. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0.

(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Tax Free Holidays for Back to School Shopping

Tax Free holidays are popular times for parents to head out shopping for back to school clothing and supplies with the kids.  Expect stores to be crowded, and pack your patience to take advantage of the extra savings.

Below is a list of dates where states have announced a state sales tax holiday.  Georgia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts will not have a tax free holiday in 2017.

Items Included
clothing, computers, school supplies
Jul 21-23rd, 2017
clothing & footwear
Jul 28-29th, 2017
clothing, school supplies, computers
Jul 28-30th, 2017
school supplies, clothing, computers
Aug 4-6th, 2017
clothing and school supplies
Aug 4-6th, 2017
clothing, school supplies
Aug 4-6th, 2017
South Carolina
clothing, school supplies, computers
Aug 4-6th, 2017
Aug 4-6th, 2017
New Mexico
clothing, computers, school supplies
Aug 4-6th, 2017
clothing, computers, school supplies
Aug 4-6th, 2017
Aug 4-5th, 2017
Personal Property <2500
Aug 4-5th, 2017
clothing, school supplies
Aug 5-6th, 2017
clothing, backpacks & school supplies
Aug 11-13th, 2017
clothing & footwear
Aug 13-19th, 2017
clothing and footwear
Aug 20-26th, 2017

Source:  https://www.freetaxweekend.com/

Photo Credit: Jimmie. School Supplies Homeschool. (Flickr)

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Monday, July 10, 2017


Shop AeropostaleAeropostale is a specialty retailer with over 500 stores in the US.  They sell apparel and accessories targeting the 16 - 22 year old shopper.  They also carry basic school uniform items for tweens and teens.  Their website makes it easy to find the items as they are grouped under boys and girls in the navigation menu as "uniform".

The girls uniform collection includes short sleeve polo shirts in 10 different colors and the long sleeve polo in 5 colors.   The sizing ranges from an XS through a XXL.  Basic Bermuda shorts and pants are offered in khaki, black and navy. The girls pants are offered in a skinny twill style as well as a traditional straight leg style.  Even better, they offer the pants in regular and a curvy fit. A straight skirt is offered in 2 lengths, 15 and 19 inch.

The boys uniform collection includes short sleeve polo shirts in 8 different colors and the long sleeve polo in 5 colors.   They also have a v neck cardigan sweater in 4 colors. The boys alpha sizing in the tops ranges from X Small to 3X Large. Guys shorts, called long-board shorts, are offered in 7 colors including uniform basics of khaki, black and navy. The boys pants are offered in 2 styles: a slim cut straight leg pant with a flat front or a straight leg chino style.  

Shop Aeropostale

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What's New at Children's Place for Back to School 2017

As the 2017 Back to School season gets underway, I checked out the school uniform collection at the Children's Place to look for anything new or updated. The most notable change is that they now allow returns of online only items to their retail and outlet stores. Yeah! Several of the school uniform items are offered as "online exclusives". Previously, if you took a risk and ordered an item online and it turns out that it didn't fit, you them had to go through the hassle and expense of mailing the item back. Now, you can simply return the item to your local store.  This change is a win for consumers.

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Skater Skort

Last year they began to offer a popular style of the skater skirt in their uniform collection. The downside for the item was that it was a skirt and not a scooter. This year it was been updated to include the built in shorts underneath. Yeah again, this simple change simplifies shopping because you don't have to find separate shorts to wear underneath. Built in shorts give girls the confidence to run and climb on the playground at recess.

Boys Uniform Long Sleeve Mock Neck Zip Sweater

I also noticed a long sleeve mock neck zip-up sweater in the boys uniform collection. I believe this classic style is new in the Children's Place collection, but has been a best seller at competing retailers.  This zip up style is 60% cotton and 40% acrylic. My daughter loves the zip-up style sweater, and I don't see any reason why Moms should shy away from ordering this sweater for their daughters. I plan to test and review this item this season, so I'll let you know how the color and quality hold up.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What's New with the Cat and Jack School Uniform Collection at Target For Back To School 2017

Last summer Target launched the Cat and Jack brand of children's clothing. It's school uniform collection which replaced the Cherokee brand line in their stores. Although I found the uniform styles and quality of the items comparable to the Cherokee collection, I was disappointed in the color selection of "nightfall blue" for many of the uniform basics. It is not a true navy and I suggested shoppers look elsewhere if navy basics are required at your school.

New color - Navy Voyage

I was delighted to see that many of the uniform basics have been updated this season to a color called "navy voyage". I checked it out in person today and it appears to be a shade darker than the "nightfall blue" in last year's collection. Some of the girls ponte items are still offered in the nightfall blue such as the two button knit scooter, the ponte knit dresses and the safari dress. However the chinos, shorts, the boys polo shirts (not the girls) and the girls polo dress are updated to the navy voyage color. I will keep an eye out to see if they continue to update the remaining girls items from nightfall blue to navy voyage in the upcoming months.

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Girls Pleated Scooter 

I believe the girls pleated scooter is a new item in the collection  this year.  It includes built in shorts underneath. The product description boasts an adjustable waist which differentiates it from the similarity styled item from French Toast which only offers an elastic waist.  It is a rayon/poly blend which is offered in navy and khaki in girls sizing 4 - 16, and plus.  The regular retail price is 12.99.

Pricing and Other Brands

The Cat and Jack school uniform collection is competitively priced, even at regular full price.  Luck for us, they frequently are on sale or included in discount promotions on clothing items. 

Target also continues to carry items from the French Toast, Dickies, and Eddie Bauer school uniform collections. With such a wide offering of brands, you can find sizing for preschoolers, kids, plus and husky, as well as juniors sizing.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

French Toast changes to alpha sizing on Polo Shirts

French Toast - America's Most Popular School Uniforms for Less!

I complained last year when the Children's Place changed the sizing of their yoga pants from numeric to alpha.  My daughter couldn't wear their yoga pants leggings because she was between sizes.  So I am sad to see that French Toast is also changing the sizing of their polo shirts in both boys and girls styles from numeric sizing to alpha sizing.

I found the following message on  product detail pages for the polo tops:

"If your numeric size is out of stock, get the new alpha size! French Toast has simplified shopping with our new alpha sizes XS, S, M, L, XL. See our size conversion chart below to find your best fit."

The numeric sizing scale includes 7 size options in the elementary school size range while the alpha sizing reduces that to 5 sizes.  I understand how this helps a manufacture with inventory management, but it is a bummer for the kids waiting for the next growth spurt while they are between sizes. I expect alpha sizing from the box stores where the uniforms are just one collection in their seasonal offering, but I have come to expect more from retailers like French Toast that specialize in school uniforms.

If you have a child that is between sizes, act quick before they sell out of all the numeric sizes and stock up on a few polos now.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Ultimate List of Sideline Survival Gear for Soccer Moms

My daughter has been playing soccer for several years now.  This past year, she stepped up her game playing in the local travel league.  This meant a bigger commitment from her with practices 2 -3 times a week, almost year round and games and tournaments many weekends in the Spring and Fall. For me and her Dad, this meant we needed to improve our sideline gear.  From spending many long afternoons at parks and farms across our region this past year, we have a list of things that are always in the car or in our bag ready to go.  Here are some of our recommendations that make up the ultimate list of sideline survival gear for Soccer Moms and Dads:

Coleman Oversized Quad Chair with Cooler
You'll need a comfortable portable chair. These quad chairs are sturdy and easy to carry. You'll need one with a cup holder and this model has some extras for keeping supplies handy. Order one for yourself in team colors.
Pro tip - When using the chair, tie the carry bag to the armrest so it doesn't get lost.

Stadium Waterproof and Windproof Blanket

I hate being cold.  Even worse is being cold and wet.  I have one of these blankets that is soft fleece on one side and the opposite side is backed by a waterproof and windproof material.  So while it's intended purpose might be for a quaint picnic on a sunny day.  These blankets are also great to wrap up with on the sidelines on a cold dreary day. 
Pro tip - Keep the blanket in your car.  Being super portable, it is a great alternative to lugging the chair out when you'll only be waiting around for a few minutes at the end of soccer practice.

Travel Umbrella with Double Canopy
My husband's company gave him an over-sized umbrella many years ago. It wasn't a golf umbrella, but was large enough for both of us to huddle under without it being too big.  After having it for almost 20 years, it is on it's last legs so I'm on the hunt for a replacement.  With 100% 5 star reviews, this looks like a great replacement.  I like that it has a double canopy so it handles the wind better than a traditional umbrella. The size is larger than a regular umbrella and smaller than a golf umbrella.

Sun Visor

For sunny game days, I wear my favorite sunglasses, but a good visor is key.  I prefer a visor to a ball hat just because its cooler. But the visor keeps the sun off your face so you don't end up with raccoon eyes from getting too much sun while wearing glasses. You know the look I'm talking about.
Pro tip - This one comes in so many great color choices, you'll be sure to find one to match the team's colors.

Mac Sports Collapsible Folding Outdoor Utility Wagon

We're condo people and we live in a city, so we recently got this cart to bring groceries in from the car.  I store it in my car so it is always handy, but also because we have no inside storage for these types of items.  But this has totally been worth it.  We use it at all of the weekend games and tournaments to haul our gear to the sidelines. It is available in many popular team colors, so again, team colors make a great choice.

Portable Travel Toiletry Pouch
These colorful pouches are cute, but honestly, the type of bag doesn't matter as much as the supplies you'll want to keep handy.  Grab a spare makeup bag and pack it with 1) travel size sunscreen, 2) bug spray, and 3) one of those small packages of tissues and 4) some of these PURELL Hand Sanitizer Wipes (in case you need to visit the portable potty).
Pro tip - leave the pouch in the car so you don't forget it at home.

Sport-Brella Versa-Brella All Position Umbrella

My husband volunteered to be team scorekeeper.  This meant that he had to bring the iPad to the game each weekend to track the stats on the app recommended by the coaches. During hot and sunny games, his iPad was overheating, becoming unusable.  During rainy games, he had to hide the iPad under my waterproof blanket.  I got him this umbrella this Spring, and it has worked like a charm.  He can clip it to his chair and adjust it to provide shade as the sun moves throughout the day.  

Women's 200 Fleece Jacket-MerlotLands' End Fleece Jacket
I am a big fan of fleece zip ups.  I own several. They are super comfortable, warm, washable, and affordable.  In the fall, I prefer Lands' End 100 fleece, but when temperatures drop and winds whip up, I reach for my 200 fleece.  I got one (yep, you guessed it) in team colors this season.  I also recommend the fleece glovesscarf, and hat.  Grab the men's fleece for Dad.