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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Melody Quinney shops for shorts for her son Christopher, 13, while doing back-to-school shopping with three of her boys at Macy's in the South Towne Mall.

Before hitting the stores for back-to-school clothes, Melody Quinney will do a detailed inventory of what her four boys already have.

Socks? Check.

Shoes? Needed.

The goal of this process (which Quinney describes as a "time-sucking vortex") is to avoid overspending and buying items that won't get worn. She said she has saved money by simply planning ahead.

"You cannot go to the mall blind," said Quinney, who lives in West Jordan. "Otherwise you go home broke with a bunch of cute shirts and nothing to match."

A recent Lands' End survey of 800 moms showed 75 percent believe their back-to-school budgets will be affected this fall by rising gas, grocery and living expenses. Like Quinney, many plan to use cash-saving techniques to lower their expenses for shirts, shoes and supplies for their kids.

Here are a few tips from some budget-minded Utah moms:

Debbie Brown, Murray

With seven children fairly close in age, Debbie Brown quickly learned to be frugal with back-to-school shopping. Before heading to the stores, she and her children would search for sales and make a list of what items were needed.

Brown also taught her children to shop at secondhand stores and off-price retailers. Only two of her children are still in K-12, but she said her family still works within a budget for back-to-school clothes and supplies.

"We've gotten pretty good about things," Brown said. "We've learned to really look and discuss how we were going to do this."

One trick she has is to not buy everything all at once. Her children will get a few new things for the start of the school year and then when the weather turns cool, they'll buy a little more.

Carrie Sweet, West Jordan

After three years, Carrie Sweet said it is finally time to buy her 7-year-old son a new backpack. His old one has worn out and Sweet said her philosophy with school shopping is to avoid making purchases until needed.

"If my children have enough clothes for their needs, I don't usually buy new clothes just for the sake of buying new clothes," Sweet said. "I buy what we need and nothing more."

This year, her 7-year-old will get new shoes and long pants. Her 4-year-old will also get shoes and his first backpack, but he will use clothes outgrown by his older brother.

Some of Sweet's favorite places to shop include Old Navy and Sears. She shops during the off-season and said she tries to buy well-made, "classic" items that can be passed down to younger siblings.

Debbie Hoskin, West Jordan

Back-to-school shopping is a little tricky for Debbie Hoskin. Two of her children attend year-round schools, so she must buy summer clothes in addition to fall and winter items for back-to-school.

Hoskin just bought shirts at ShopKo for her two girls as part of a "buy one, get one free" deal. Later this fall, she'll buy jeans when they go on sale.

School supplies will come from Wal-Mart.

"I'm not afraid to use coupons, or, if you can find a good deal, to shop the clearance racks — whatever," Hoskin said.

Tracy Jones, Paradise

While Tracy Jones likes a good deal, she said she won't sacrifice quality for a low price. She tries to buy items that will last a long time, because she believes it's cheaper in the long run.

This year, her three kids, ages 15, 14 and 9, will each get a new pair of shoes. Jones also plans to buy about four or five new shirts for each child and about three new pairs of pants.

Her budget is about $150 per child with a maximum of $50 for shoes. If her kids want something extra, they must pay for it themselves or make up the difference by doing extra chores.

One trick she uses to find low-cost but high-quality items is to shop at places such as Deseret Industries. She and her daughter just found a "cute" gold-sequined shrug at the D.I. and paired it with a shirt from Kmart. It cost $10 overall, and her daughter "doesn't feel like she's wearing 'secondhand,"' Jones said.

Melody Quinney, West Jordan

For the most part, Quinney said she has it easy with back-to-school shopping. Her boys aren't too particular when it comes to style, and her younger children are OK with some hand-me-down clothes, she said.

Her philosophy is to shop on a strictly "needs" basis. When her boys want something extra, she'll buy the item if it seems practical. If it's just something "trendy," Quinney will put the item on hold and tell her sons to think about it overnight. If they still want the item the next day, she'll drive them back.

She usually doesn't make that return trip.

"Everyone shops emotionally," Quinney said. "I'm kind of teaching them not to shop on their emotions."


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com