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As the summer holidays draw to a close and a new school year approaches, the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), is encouraging parents doing back-to-school shopping for their children to make budgets and exercise wise money management measures in order to minimise expenses.
“Budgeting is very important because it is actually sitting down and making a plan as to how much you have to spend, what is needed for the school term and what you might have to do without,” says Dorothy Campbell, Communication Specialist at the CAC.
She urges parents to analyse their financial status, so as to determine where funds will be sourced and the best places to procure back-to-school supplies in order not to over-extend themselves physically and financially.
Miss. Campbell advises parents to make a list of the various items which their children will require for school, inclusive of textbooks, pencils, pens, notebooks and uniforms, and the attendant expenses. Thereafter, they should determine how and where these items can and will be acquired.
The Communication Specialist points out that time spent doing this can be saved by calling around to several stores and shopping outlets to inquire what is available before venturing out.
“Once you leave home, think about where you are going and visit ‘one-stop’ shopping locations where most of the items on your list can be bought…go to an area where you have several options and ensure that within that option, you have discounted offerings,” Miss Campbell advises.
This approach, she contends, enables individuals to shop around, compare prices and save money.
Miss Campbell also suggests networking with family members, friends and co-workers who may be visiting particular shopping areas, to purchase items in order to cut travelling costs.
“If you have friends in a particular town or urban centre,” she recommends, “find out what is available and the price offerings and let them purchase the items for you…network with the people who are available and try to gather as much of the back-to-school supplies that are available to you and save as much as you can.”
The Communication Specialist also reminds shoppers to thoroughly examine items being purchased to ensure none of these have any flaws. “Check buttons, zippers, examine the quality of fabric, pull on the seam to make sure that it is stitched properly,” are some of the tips Miss Campbell offers.
“Important too, is to secure proper receipts for all your purchases. At the end of the day when you put all your receipts together, you may be able to identify where you bought what, how much you paid for it and what the items were, so in the event that you get home and the quality is substandard, then you know exactly where to go to get an exchange or a refund of that item,” the Communication Specialist points out.
Regarding textbooks, Miss Campbell says parents should consider the various options available, and settle on the one that best meets their budget. In instances where parents decide to purchase new books from bookstores, she directs them to peruse the CAC’s Annual School Textbook Survey results, which is posted on their website: www.consumeraffairsjamaica.gov.jm .
The survey, she explains, will assist parents in ascertaining which outlets in their town or parish, provide the best prices on new books that are available.
Otherwise, the Communications Specialist recommends that parents do comparisons by calling or visiting bookstores in order to get the most competitive prices.Miss Campbell also urges parents to exercise proper money management, and spend wisely when shopping for textbooks.
“Try and find out exactly what the children need for the term, and start with that immediate term. Do not try to shop for everything for the entire year and put yourself under unnecessary stress,” she advises.
She adds that parents should avoid purchasing the incorrect textbooks by taking a copy of the booklist when shopping, rather than relying on memory.
“It is important to match the author’s name, the volume, the book number, whether it is Book One or Book Two, (and) whether or not it is the revised edition. They have to check for these things, because each year, or very soon after one edition, you have a new edition being published,” Miss Campbell emphasises.
She further says that parents should “ensure that textbooks are wrapped, kept in good condition, and that no permanent marks are made in them. This way, you can sell or exchange them next term, thus reducing next year’s back-to-school expenses.”
She also advises parents to explore all the possible options for sourcing textbooks, including the school book rental scheme, second hand books from family and friends, as well as from stores offering second hand books for sale.
Miss Campbell suggests the following tips:
. For school supplies, take advantage of bargains and buy multiple quantities that the child may need further in the year. If you purchase two pairs of shoes, pants or shirts, buy the second pair a size or two larger, as the child may grow by the time he or she is ready to use these.
. When buying notebooks, try getting those with hard covers as they tend to last longer.
. Before purchasing new uniforms, examine those the child already has to determine whether they can still be worn, then decide how many additional ones are needed. (Some schools have ready-made uniforms available on sale to their students. This may prove less expensive than buying the fabric and accessories and having the garments made by a professional tailor or dressmaker).
. When buying shoes, ensure they are of quality workmanship and fit properly. Avoid impulse shopping and ensure that you are getting the best quality. Check shoes for stitched or glued soles. Check to ensure that eyelets, laces and/or buckles do not break or fall off easily.
. Do not be fooled into thinking that ‘brand names’ are synonymous with better quality; the generic or not so popular brands may last longer. Insist on comfort and durability, and then incorporate style.
. When buying ready-made clothes or having them made, ensure that buttons are firmly attached, zips work easily, there is a seam allowance, and that there are no loose threads to give the clothes an untidy appearance.
. When buying bags, you may be tempted to choose a stylish bag, rather than how practical and durable the design and fabric are. Remember these bags need to be durable enough for the weight of textbooks and other supplies.
The Consumer Affairs Commission welcomes feedback from parents, who are also invited to call 978-4998 or visit their website at www.consumeraffairsjamaica.gov.jm for further information.

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