Before those school bells start ringing once again, a cash register symphony will bleep and ka-ching millions of times as a world of weary parents prepare for the annual Back to School rush.

On average, the two biggest shopping times of the year for parents are Christmas (obviously) and late summer. That’s when the grownups invariably want the little ones to put their best foot forward as they begin a new school year. Some parents spend thousands on their kids’ clothes, books and the electronic gadgets that they insist are necessary.

But not everyone has that kind of cash. If your pocket books are brimming with bills or your pockets are full of holes, getting the necessities is what is at the heart of this issue. An added bonus is to avoid the parent-child warfare over practicality vs. what they think is necessary to keep up with the Johnnies and Suzies of homeroom.

The fashions

It’s no secret that what appears in fashion magazines is geared at teens, and that what they see on their fave kid stars may not be appropriate to wear to school in the North where life is a little frostier. This fall, however, the world of fashion is being more accommodating to kids braving the cold. Finally, layers long and short in mix and match prints are all the rage, are easy to pull off and are ideal for the warm and practical yet still chic kid.

For the ladies, the hot thing to have this season is the tunic with whatever she wants, from warm leggings to jeans to skirts on the bottom. This summer’s baby doll dresses have given way to what look like mini-dresses to be worn over pants in either svelte fits or empire waists and it’s a great way to be both fashionable and warm all at once.

The key word is long and pattern-wise stripes among other things are still big for just about everyone. If she is into short-ish dresses or skirts and is just dying to have one, why not indulge her by having her wear them over slim-fitting pants or leggings when the weather cools?
Bright-coloured denim is also fun to pair up with dressy long tops or large knit sweaters. Most major retailers have them, and these super long tops can be dressed down fashionably with a classic hoodie or dressed up with girly accessories like short cardigans, scarves and the like.

For the young man, laid back layers are just as much the rage. But it’s more about throwing summer-like Ts and button downs over warmer long-sleeved gear for that funky urban look.

Plaids, stripes and athletic labeled or logo-ed gear are hot for winter and fall, paired with baggy loose fitting cargo or army inspired pants. Call it grunge for a new generation: a stripy long sleeve under a basic coloured short sleeve is the too-cool-for-school look this season or the reverse and all of these layer-able looks are also available at the aforementioned retailers.

The other hot thing for boys this season is camouflage. In thebush or in the classroom, fatigues are where it’s at so get your greens on boys and hit the books.

Though most of the retailers mentioned above don’t offeronline shopping, it’s never a bad idea to take a few minutes tolook at what they have to offer before hitting the shops so thatyou can shop around price-wise.

Of course, if you are looking to save and have the chance to go south, second-hand is just as trendy among the city kids. If your kids are into it, sometimes dropping by a Village des Valeurs, Salvation Army Store or Army Surplus can be really worthwhile as those $25 or $50 jeans or fatigues can often be found for $5. Second-hand shopping is very popular in Montreal as it’s a great opportunity to get quality items for less and you can get also find durable backpacks and warm outerwear at a fraction of the cost in these kinds of places. For store locations go to:

Gadgets… do they really need ’em?
Though very few people at this point remember writing their assignments on slates with chalk, they used to be one of the few supplies that kids needed to get an education. As a society we evolved from slates to notebooks to plastic and metal binder combinations and now electronic devices that keep us from misspelling words and provide us with info at our fingertips.

The big question is, what is really necessary? Usually, that is really up to individual schools and whoever is teaching that class. As more and more homes become equipped with personal computers, the expectation that even little kids will hand in their homework perfectly formatted and laser printed is also growing.

If you are looking at investing in that oh-so-important research tool but don’t want to spend over a thousand dollars, think refurbished or even second hand. Stores like Futureshop now offer refurbished computers for hundreds of dollars less. Not only are they great buys but they also offer warranties should anything go wrong. Have a look at them at If money is not an issue and you want something fully loaded and top of the line shipped right to your home, check out a Dell fully loaded system at

And if you are computer savvy and want to wing it by purchasing a second-hand computer on your own, try Craigslist. This website free-for-all is known as the international free classifieds with pages for every major North American city. Anyone can post and anyone can buy and if you are looking to purchase a