Many people don’t want to think about back-to-school, especially in the midst of high summer. However, back-to-school shopping can creep up on you quickly, so it pays to be prepared.

The best way to save money is to start planning ahead of time, so you can take advantage of every deal and coupon that comes your way.

To your kids, shopping for new clothes, gear and school supplies may be the only good thing about going back to school, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune every year. Here are some ideas for how to get everything they need and save a few bucks doing it:

Hit Up the Dollar Store : You can get some incredible bargains on school supplies at the dollar store. Start shopping in the summer months. You never know what stores will order or how long items will stay in stock. You can buy basic supplies, like notebooks and pencils, for a great price at the dollar store.

BUY IN BULK: Buy in bulk to save money on back-to-school shopping. When pens, crayons and glue go on sale in the late summer, buy enough to get you through the rest of the year.

WATCH YOUR TIMING: As you probably already know, the big rush to buy school supplies occurs in August and then again in January because many college students go back to school after the winter holiday, as well. If you avoid these peak times and buy after the rush, when items often go on sale for 50 percent to 75 percent off retail prices, you can save a lot of money.

SHOP END-OF-SUMMER SALES: You know as well as I do that kids wear short-sleeve polo shirts all year long, so hit the big summer sales and snap up discounted duds that can be worn well into fall.

HOST A BACK-TO-SCHOOL SWAP: Round up a couple of other moms with kids the same gender as yours but different ages and host an annual clothes swap. Trade toys and books, too. You’ll save a bundle.

MAKE THEM WORK: What do you do if you’ve set limits for buying specialty or high-end items and your kids still beg for expensive back-to-school items? Make them go to work.

Assign them chores or send them out into the neighborhood and make them earn the money for those items. My parents did this to me, and I lived through the experience.

It also made me examine, in a real way, how badly I wanted to buy those “must-have” items. Most of the time, when I had to spend my own money on something or put my own hours into making enough money for a purchase, I discovered that I didn’t really want the item as badly as I thought I did.

St. Helena Central reunion

St. Helena Central High Class of 1995 will have its 20-year reunion Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18-19. Money is due by Monday . See a reunion committee member or email shch_co_95@yahoo.com for details.

Reunion committee members are Kimetria Bennett, Shauntrel Douglas, Rolonda Franklin, Antoine George, Lucretia Gordon, Latoya Gordon, LaShan Johnson, LaToya Lee, Myron Matthews and Shawanda Self.

Contact Stephanie Warren by phone at (985) 517-4869 or email swarren@theadvocate.com.