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It’s been a few years since I’ve endured back-to-school shopping, all-school fundraisers, and parent-teacher conferences. Still, for me, the end of summer brings a sweet sense of excitement over September’s promise of a clean slate.

I can only assume that having spent so many years in school myself and then doing it all over again with my kids—and now my grandsons—my inner clock is stuck on the school, not the calendar, year.

Gone are the days when back-to-school meant a new pair of shoes. Nowadays, that simple three-word phrase is tantamount to the first domino that starts a chain of reactions into clothes, backpacks, supplies, fundraisers, after-school care, sports, clubs, school parties, nutritious breakfasts, loads of laundry, carpools, mobile phones, parking passes, lunch bags, teacher gifts and on and on it goes.

The challenge for all of us is to find practical ways to save time and money every day in all areas that relate to our kids, school and family life.

MORE: Back-to-School Clothes Shopping

Today, I want to share a story with you to demonstrate a way that you can get your kids’ clothes (yours, too!) and or school uniforms at huge savings—not from the thrift store and not the clothes your kids don’t want but they’re going to get, just because they’re on sale! I’m talking about the stores and style you and the kids love.

Here’s what happened: I asked my daughter-in-law if Eli (the cutest newly-minted fourth grader on earth) needed any school clothes. The answer was “Yes, please!” which gave me a wonderful reason to go shopping. Online. At home from my computer. Eli’s school requires uniforms—for the boys, it’s basic polo shirts and slacks.

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Everything is different when you’re a child: The trees are taller, colors are brighter, and every new day is more exciting than the last. And some things stay in our memories for a long time—in fact, sometimes they end up being with us forever.

 

Dear Mary: The sad news that Toys R Us is closing all of its US stores not only has us nostalgic for childhood memories, but it also has me wondering: what should they do with their Toys R Us gift cards? Michael

Dear Michael: This is a very sad topic in my family. My adult kids and grandsons too, are going through a kind of grief as thoughts of Toys R Us flood them with wonderful memories. 

As for Gift Cards—there’s one important thing to remember: Gift cards are not the same as cash. They represent store credit. One of the dangers of holding onto Gift Cards is that the store will file for bankruptcy or some other event that causes those Gift Cards to become virtually worthless without notice. My advice is that you use Gift Cards as soon as possible—never hold onto them for the long term. 

Get thee to the nearest Toys R Us store you can find that is still open to buy some Christmas gifts! Don’t assume you’ll be able to use those Gift Cards at ToysRUs.com as the online store has been closed. Only a sweet, tearjerker message remains with a reminder me that deep down inside, we’re all Toys R Us kids. 

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