So what can you do to cut down on the cost of all those supplies? Start by getting the list early. If you haven't received your school's list yet, make a call or head online to at least get a hint of what's coming. After all, shopping around for the best prices takes time.

Put your kids to work finding the best bargains on the Internet. Everyone who finds bargains will add points to their total.

But don't go too far for a bargain. The decision on where you shop should be based on both prices and mileage. It may turn out that shopping online is the most efficient, but don't forget to factor in shipping charges.

Up next, it's time for a checkup ...

Girl getting vaccination from doctor

Prepare now for doctor's visit

Kids are exposed to more germs and ailments than we saw growing up. There is no magic bullet, but a checkup helps.

But these days, not all families can afford the regular visit to the pediatrician's office. Insurance is an item too many families are forced to live without. Check out local medical clinics and find out what the prices are for needed examinations and booster shots.

Let your children know several weeks ahead of an appointment. Offer extra points for those who don't cause any trouble. The promise of a quick fast-food run afterward is a good way to quiet any fussing.

Also add some bonus points to all who go quietly, especially to those who require injections.

For those new to checkups, let them look up what exactly happens on various websites

Our final tip is strictly by the book ...

Girl looking at books in library

Reacquaint yourself with the library

Most kids may love ignoring mental activity during the summer, but now's the time to get them back into gear by putting a book in their hands.

Begin by picking a date to start trips to the public library. Most libraries are open nights and many have at least limited weekend hours.

No child is too young to benefit from a trip to the library. If your child is old enough, have them write a few words about what they read. The older your child, the more demanding your book report requirements can be.

Work this into your rewards system as well: an honest effort on a book summary earns them more points while no book summary equals a loss of points.

Bringing the kids into back-to-school planning will be hard at first, but remind them that next year bonuses will increase and exercise patience at every step along the way.

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