Your money is limited and time is short. Here is my best advice to make sure back-to-school clothes shopping doesn’t send you to the poorhouse.
Set spending limits
Time to get real. How much money (not credit) do you have available for school clothes? Write it down.
Take an inventory
Sort through your kids’ clothes and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones they don’t wear due to wear and tear, or because they no longer fit. This gives you a clear idea of what you have, and what you need.
Sell the old to buy the new
If you have kids clothes that are in really good condition, sell them. Take them to a resale consignment shop to sell or use as trade items. Find a consignment store near you that specializes in kidswear. Really, if you never shopped consignment, prepare to be amazed. Expect to find gently worn and brand new clothes in current styles and colors for 50 to 75 percent off new retail.
Not every child will have the same needs when it comes to school clothes. What is reasonable? Now divvy up the money you have against the children’s needs then move on to wants until all the money has been appropriated.
Start with new shoes
There’s nothing like a new pair of shoes to get kids in the mood for the first day of school. Shoes are so satisfying, this will take the edge off the raging case of the “I wants” that your children may have picked up somewhere. And a new pair of shoes can even make last seasons’ clothes perk up.
Know the dress code
It may have changed from last year, or if you’re in a new school, for sure you need to check. You don’t want to be in the unfortunate position of having to re-buy to comply with set dress standards.
Make your own clothes
This is not for everyone and I would never advocate you making your kids wear weird, homemade-looking clothes. That being said, you really may want to try your hand at making clothing. For many of us, it is a fun and fulfilling hobby. Take a class, find a seamstress who will mentor you, get your kids involved, and have some fun creating new fashions they can wear to school. Seriously.
Time your shopping
Many sales happen before school starts during August, but the real savings begin after school starts, around October. If you can put back-to-school shopping on hold, definitely wait until the fall to buy new clothes. If you feel confident about predicting your children’s growth spurts, you can also buy clothing for the following year.
Don’t buy for the whole year
It’s not wise to buy a year’s worth of clothes for a child for several reasons. First kids grow. Second styles change. And third kids, like grownups, enjoy getting new things. If you get it all now, everything will be old come January. But if you buy a couple of things now, several more at the after Christmas sales, then again in the spring, it will seem like they are getting new clothes all the time. That’s because they are.
There are so many great bargains out there, including uniforms. Your Costco may have the uniforms for local schools at seriously discounted prices. Check with neighbors and parents in your community. Call consignment shops, look for garage and tag sales while the weather is still nice. Venture onto eBay. As long as you know your brands, your sizes, and your prices you can get some remarkable deals.
First published: 8-10-15; Revised & Updated 8-01-19