Outlet Shopping with 'Tweens: Tips and Tricks
by Stacy Curtis
If you've ever gone outlet shopping with your 'tween, you know how much it's like going to the dentist: something you'd rather avoid. However, my love of Sketchers and sales (especially both at the same time) conspired with our just-before-school vacation timing so that I couldn't help but stop. We live in Texas, but these tips apply at any outlet mall.
First on the map were the Round Rock Premium Outlets, located just north of Austin. My favorite details here are the awnings spanning the walkways like colorful ceilings. They broke the stream of blazing sun and created a breezeway effect. The center was well-laid out in a double-square and had plenty of seating for those needing a break. The only disappointment was the discount book store - our last stop had an empty space where the store was once housed.
We saved San Marcos Premium Outlets and Tanger Outletsfor the trip home. These are both much larger than Round Rock. We were pretty exhausted, so we made short beelines for our favorite stores and just breezed through rather than settle in for serious shopping. Tanger had complimentary shuttles for weary shoppers needing to get to distant stores. Outlet shopping trips with 'tweens do take some pre-planning. Here are a few suggestions:
Let your fingers do the planning!
1) Prior to leaving, check the outlet's site on-line with your kids.
- Most allow you to sign up as a VIP, giving you a discount for most (but not all) of the stores in the center - even some of the food vendors. We
print out all coupons(you never know when you will get a good discount on a store you weren't planning to visit) and place them somewhere we won't forget them.
2) Compare the VIP discount book with printed coupons.
- Among the coupons, you'll typically find one for a VIP discount book. Our first stop upon arrival is to pick up that book and a map. We sit down to circle the stores we know we want to visit and check the discounts. Sometimes the printed coupons are better, sometimes the VIP book coupons are better (a good math refresher for all of us). Then we map our direction and head out.
3) Make a list and stick to it!
- My girls know that we are shopping for school clothes only - not stuffed animals, not cotton candy, nor squeaky toys for the dog. Keep them focused by having a list of specific things they need, such as: two pairs of shorts, two nice jeans under $50, etc...They know I have a price-per-item limit and a total budget that we don't go over. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this helps with their budgeting skills later in life.
4) Encourage them to use their own money for extras.
- They also have their own discretionary spending money earned by doing extra chores around the house. It is totally their own and can be spent in any way. If my older one wants to buy jeans that cost more than my per-item limit, she can decide to use her own money for the extra. If my younger daughter decides to splurge on a huge candy apple that caught her eye, that's her choice. I've discovered lots of teaching opportunities during their decision time.
5) Expect exasperation and plan for it.
- 'Tweens aren't known for their patience (come to think of it, neither am I), so discuss these issues before hand and together decide what to do. Depending on your child's age, perhaps a reward for every complaint-free hour spent is in order. The key is to set behavior expectations.
Yes, we're going to get hot
- - let's take extra water or plan a smoothie break.
Yes, I'll be visiting some shops for myself
- - you wait patiently for me and I'll wait patiently for you.
Yes, you'll have to try on 'millions' of clothes
- - the less you complain the quicker we'll be.
Yes, an "80% liquidation sale" will cause me to detour
- - deal with it, I might find something for you.
6) Be comfortable!
- I'm sure this goes without saying: wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes. They make all the difference in the world when it comes to endurance. And if you happened to forget, you can always visit the Sketchers store first for those 'walking on a cloud' Shape-Ups!
©2011, Stacy Curtis.
Stacy Curtis is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.