10 Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping

By Cameron Huddleston

 Use these strategies to cut the cost of clothing, electronics and school supplies

Parents of school-age children: Get ready to feel the pinch on your pocketbook. If last year was any indication of what to expect this year, you’re likely to shell out hundreds of dollars over the next few weeks to get your kids ready to head back to school. Families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade spent more than $600, on average, in 2013 on back-to-school purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s a big price tag for clothing, electronics, pencils, paper and other supplies.

However, preparing your kids for the classroom doesn’t have to take such a big bite out of your budget. By following these ten strategies, you can keep back-to-school shopping costs under control.

1. Shop your home first. Take inventory of your drawers, cabinets and closets so you know what you already have before shopping, says Regina Novickis, a savings expert at PromotionalCodes.com. You¹ll likely find that you already have several items such as notebooks and pencils that you purchased but your kids never used or are still in good condition. Also, have your kids try on the clothing they already have to see what still fits. You might find that they haven’t grown enough to justify the purchase of new apparel or shoes.

2. E-mail a teacher. If your child’s school doesn’t provide a shopping list, ask your child¹s teacher what supplies are absolutely needed when classes start. (Check the school’s Web site for teachers’ e-mail addresses.) This will help you avoid wasting money on school supplies your child doesn’t need, Novickis says. Even if your child’s school provides a standard supply list, many teachers often have their own (sometimes much shorter) lists.

3. Set a budget. Once you know what you already have, then you can make of list of what you need to buy. This will help you figure out how much you should expect to spend so you can establish abudget. If you set a cap before you shop, it will keep you from buying impulsively and overspending, says Jon Lal, founder and CEO of BeFrugal.com.

4. Know when to shop. For the back-to-school items you need that are specific in brand or model, shop as early as possible to avoid the risk of stores running out, Lal says. For more generic items such as school supplies, prices will drop closer to the start of school, so wait until then for steeper discounts if you can, he says. Summer clothing already is deeply discounted – 50% to 80% off, says Mark LoCastro, a savings expert for DealNews.com. Select retailers, such as Levi’s and Lucky Brand, will have sales on jeans in mid-July to mid-August. You might see some sales on fall clothing over Labor Day weekend, but the better deals will appear later (when it’s actually cool enough to wear fall apparel). August is one of the best months of the year to find deals on laptops, LoCastro says. And 15 states have sales-tax holidays during the month, which can help make purchasing a laptop and other school supplies more affordable. See our guide to sales-tax holidays.

5. Know where to shop. It may seem convenient to get all your shopping done in one place, but hitting different sales will save money in the long run, says Offers.com Vice President Howard Schaffer. For example, the best deals on folders and notebooks are at office supply stores, which offer these items for 15 cents to 30 cents during back-to-school promotions, Novickis says. You’ll also find good sales on school supplies at big-box retailers, such as Target and Walmart. You’ll likely get better deals on clothing by shopping online because retailers typically offer coupon codes on their sites that can be used to score even bigger discounts on sale items, LoCastro says. You also can find coupon codes at sites such as Coupons.com, PromotionalCodes.com and RetailMeNot.com.

6. Look for multiple ways to save. If you’re shopping at a sale in a brick-and-mortar store, use a coupon app such as the apps from Coupon Sherpa or RetailMeNot to see if retailers have any coupons you can upload on your phone and present at the register. You can use a comparison-shopping app such as RedLaser to scan the barcodes of products in stores to see if other retailers are offering those items at lower prices. You also can use discounted gift cards from sites such as Cardpool and Gift Card Granny that sell cards for less than face value to score instant savings. When shopping online, Lal recommends using a cash-back site that lets you earn back a percentage of the money you spend on qualifying purchases (see Get the Most Out of Cash-Back Shopping Sites).

7. Follow your favorite retailers on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for their e-mail alerts for exclusive deals, coupons and sale notifications, LoCastro says.

8. Take advantage of student discounts. Retailers such as Apple, Microsoft and Dell offer student-only pricing on laptops and often attach a free gift card to the purchase for printers, e-books or apps, Novickis says.

9. Buy used or rent. Textbooks are cheaper used (and even cheaper when you rent them). Consider buying items such as computers refurbished rather than new. Refurbished tech items, which are used but restored to like-new condition and often have a one-year warranty, can cost half as much as the original price. Among the sites where you can find refurbished computers, tablets and other products are Apple.com, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Newegg.com, TigerDirect.com and Walmart.com.

10. Swap. Novickis recommends reaching out to other parents you know to see if they have clothing or other items their kids have outgrown that they’re willing to give to you or sell for a low price. Although the clothing has been used, it still will be “new” to your kids.

How to handle a teen’s acting out in a way that’s effective and compassionate

By Anastasia Pollock, MA, LCMHC

Understand the whys, master the solutions with these tested tips

“I am at my wits’ end! I just don’t know what to do with her!” This is usually the first statement I hear from a caregiver coming into therapy to address behavior problems in a teenager. When a teen is acting out behaviorally, caregivers are often left feeling helpless and hopeless that the situation can improve. They become exhausted and don’t know what to say or do to help the teen. Here, I list tips that I give the caregivers who seek help from me that will help to better understand the teen and better your relationship during this sensitive time in his or her life.


The teen that is acting out is often branded as a “bad kid.” But here is the thing: In my professional career, I have never met a “bad kid.” I have met a lot of teens that are struggling with emotions, their identities and problems at home and school, but none of them have been bad at their core. When a teen acts out behaviorally, he is trying to send a message. The brains of adolescents have not yet fully developed, and they lack some of the skills most adults have to manage intense emotion. Add the fact that hormones are usually raging as they hit puberty and you have the perfect combination for your teen to start showing behavior problems.

Assuming that the teen is bad can impact how you react to the behaviors and can cause her to form negative beliefs about herself, which can seriously hurt self-esteem, confidence and any motivation she may have to change her behavior. In addition, this assumption can do major damage to the parent/child relationship, which can last into her adulthood.

I encourage parents and caregivers to send a clear message that you believe the teen is good at her core. It is certainly appropriate to point out behaviors which are not acceptable, but be specific about the behavior and do not generalize that behavior into his character. Example: “When you yelled at me, I felt hurt and disappointed because that behavior is disrespectful” instead of “You are so disrespectful and rude! What is wrong with you?”


This is easier said than done. Sometimes teens can say very hurtful things to a well-meaning caregiver. The situation worsens when the caregiver strikes back at the teen with a behavior or words motivated by that hurt, and the problem will most likely escalate and cause damage to the relationship.

Take some time for yourself to step back from the situation to give yourself space to process your emotions that come up as a result of the teen’s verbalizations or behavior. It is OK to say “I need to take a moment for myself” and walk away. Allow yourself to feel the emotion you need to feel, and then remind yourself that the teen is hurting and lashing out. Her words and behaviors are about her emotional pain, not necessarily about you. Just make sure you come back to the issue later in order to address the behavior in the fashion outlined in the previous section.




Kids of all ages use their behaviors to communicate with adults about things they cannot yet verbalize. Consider the baby who cries because he is hungry or uncomfortable. As children grow, they develop the ability to start using language to communicate their needs, but remember, as mentioned formerly, their brains are not completely developed in adolescence so they sometimes continue to use behaviors as a way to communicate.


When you see your teen acting out, think about the message he is likely trying to send. For example, “I hate you!” can mean “I am really confused and hate the way I feel right now,” or “I hate feeling as though I don’t have much control in my life.”


Instead of reacting emotionally, follow through with the steps in the preceding section and then return to the situation when BOTH of you are calm and say something like, “It seems that there is a lot going on. Can you tell me what you are feeling so we can try to work this out?” At this point, listening is crucial. Even if you feel like what the teen is asking for is completely out of the question, making him feel heard and talking out the logic behind parental decisions can help him feel more involved and help them to accept whatever decision is made. Every teen I have had in therapy sends the same message about just wanting to be heard and understood.




There are just some issues that a teen doesn’t want to discuss with her parents or caregivers. This is when it is very important to make sure that she has someone to talk to like a therapist, school counselor or trusted aunt or uncle. Raising a child is much easier for both the parent and child when there are more people involved. This will take pressure off the parent and give the teen a person in whom she can confide those things they just don’t want their parents to know.




As I said earlier, I have never met a bad teen. I have consistently seen that although the teen is usually the identified patient in therapy, it is usually something happening systematically in the family that really needs to be addressed. If you seek therapy for your teen, be prepared to attend family sessions and parent sessions. These sessions are not a place for the therapist to tell you what you have been doing is wrong, but rather a place to get extra support and ideas to implement in the home that will bring about the change you desire. It is very hard for a teen to change behaviors when the parents are not willing to also make changes. 


Keep in mind that being a teenager is hard. It is a time in life when we try to figure out who we are and where we fit in the world. It is also a time of drastic changes physically and emotionally. Having compassion for a teen can go a long way in starting the conversations that need to happen to address behavior issues.


It’s Official: Every Child Can Learn to Read

Bella Kahn- Jewish ConnectED



For children with intellectual disability, there’s new hope on the reading front.

New studies show that children with low IQ can learn to read on at least a first-grade level, if not higher.

When it comes to children with low IQ, it is generally the functional abilities that are focused on. That’s how it should be, after all. It is important to help these children obtain skills that will help them be as self sufficient as possible and functioning members of society.

Reading, however, is not a contradiction to that.

We’re not talking about perusing lengthy novels. When these children learn to read, it means they can read instructions and product labels. They can go grocery shopping and accomplish errands while following a list.

The above examples may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But in reality, they can greatly improve a person’s ability to live independently and obtain improved job opportunities.

Many parents and educators of intellectually challenged children that have come across this new bit of research are less than impressed.

“Why, that’s old news,” says Ella G., “my daughter is easily on a 4th grade reading level. All that private tutoring sure pays off!”

E. Leibowitz, a special education expert who specializes in the Orthon Gillingham Method, concurs. “We’ve known this all along. With the right educational approach, direct instruction and a properly trained instructor, reading is an achievable goal for a majority of intellectually challenged children.”

Of course, they’re right. Devoted parents and educators are always one step ahead.

But even for them, this new research is good news. Since there is now an official study backing it up, we can expect expanded resources, improved programs and possibly better funding to help achieve the lofty goal of teaching these children to read.

Jill Allor of Southern Methodist University, who led the study, published in the journal Exceptional Children, says that the findings “prove we should never give up on anyone”.


Bella Kahn


Bella is the editor of JewishConnectED.com and JewishConnectED’s biweekly newsletter. Bella has been writing since she was 7 years old and she hasn’t stopped. She can be reached at info@jewishconnected.com.


Israeli dad creates ‘Facebook for kids’

How one man’s determination to make a safe social network for his daughter led to Nipagesh/NetoKids, a product adopted by schools in Israel and abroad.  by: Abigail Klein Leichman- Israel 21c


Itay Eshet’s 10-year-old said she wanted a Facebook account. Nothing doing, said Dad. But everyone’s using it, the little girl complained.

At that point, some parents would have caved in and others would have ignored the whining. Eshet did neither. He agreed that children under 13 – the official minimum age for Facebook – need a safe social network of their own, and he created one. In Israel, it’s called Nipagesh (Let’s Meet) and elsewhere it will be NetoKids.

Children sign up through their schools. So far, about 150 Israeli schools have registered to use the program for free, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education.

“Since at that age kids’ lives are centered around school, we decided to give them a platform that will enable them to connect with other kids with similar interests, share ideas and chats, and connect to school as well,” Eshet tells ISRAEL21c.

Teachers can use Nipagesh to send students assignments and announcements, start and moderate online group discussions, and cooperate in educational projects with other schools using the network.

And not just in Israel. Moty Kanias director of the Jewish Agency’s School Twinning Network, tells ISRAEL21c that three Israeli and three South American Jewish schools participated in a Nipagesh pilot program this year. Funded by the Jewish Agency, the L.A. Pincus Fund for Jewish Education in the Diaspora and Beit Hatfutsot-The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, the project is to expand next year to encompass 10 schools in Israel and 10 in South America.

We hope to connect Jewish kids from around the world on a daily basis through Itay’s network,” says Kanias. “We chose Nipagesh after researching all the possibilities. It has the signature of the Education Ministry, and it really serves our needs. The next phase will be connecting US schools to South America and to Israel – a sort of triangle. And we are working with Itay to add more languages.”

Headstart campaign to expand network

On May 20, Eshet launched a Headstart crowd-funding campaign seeking to raise NIS 75,000 to keep the service free in Israel.

“We are doing something unique; our business model is not based on advertising. So we ask parents to support us if they think what we are doing is for a good purpose,” he says.

Eshet, who has been programming 30 of his 39 years, hopes to roll out NetoKids internationally in September with a subscription-based business model, probably targeting Europe first.

“Our social network is multilingual, so we can deploy anywhere,” he says. “I have had several hits from interested people in other countries.”


Children using Nipagesh in Israel

The six people behind Nipagesh work out of an office in Hadera. “This is more than a full-time job for me,” says Eshet, a veteran of high-tech and the space industry in Israel thanks to his graduate degree in electrical engineering. His three children are currently aged 13, 11 and one month.

“We also want to create an application for kids as an alternative to social apps such as WhatsApp, which has an age limit of 16. Parents have no control over mobile phones. They don’t know what groups their kids are in, who are the members of those groups. So we want to bring a more suitable alternative to the chatting aspect of social media and prepare the kids for using social networking correctly when they’re older.”

Parents of children using Nipagesh/NetoKids receive alerts when their children post comments and photos, and know with whom their child is chatting, though they may not read private messages. Both adults and kids can notify administrators if they notice bullying or inappropriate language on the network.

People often ask Eshet how he cut through bureaucratic red tape to get Nipagesh approved by the Education Ministry relatively quickly.

He responds that ministry officials “understood what I proposed was a solution to a problem that they have. They are responsible for education of kids, and technology is part of that — learning how to act online and respect others, learning the limitations of the Internet. In addition, fights that begin online often end up in the schoolyard, so we give [educators] a place where they can control it and be part of it.”

For more information, see www.netokids.com.