Back to School on a Budget

Back to School Shopping on a BudgetBack to School Shopping on a Budget

By: Stephanie Hamilton,

As the school year approaches, kids and parents are starting to think about the same thing: clothes. Kids want the latest fashions. Parents don't want to break the bank. Believe it or not, it is possible to accomplish both. It just takes some planning, discipline and a little compromise.

First: Figure out what she has.

Go through your kid's closet together and sort out the clothes that don't fit. Notice I wrote, sort out the clothes that don't fit, not the ones she doesn't like anymore. If your child has grown out of most of her clothes, that's a bigger shopping priority than if the clothes fit and your child just doesn't like them anymore. This could cause some friction between you and your child, and there needs to be some compromise. Prioritize sorting out the clothes that are too big or small, but be willing to get rid of a few pieces that simply aren't trendy anymore.

Next: Figure out what she needs.

Once you've eliminated the unusable/unwanted items, and you know what's left, determine what your child needs. More compromise is required here. Your child will likely want more clothes than you're willing or able to buy. Talk to her honestly about what you can and can't afford to do, and help her narrow down her "wants" to a handful of items. For example, she might want a lot of trendy tops, but only has one pair of pants. Or she might want a bunch of skirts, even though she already has several.

This can be a stressful step, but it can also be a great teaching moment for parents. Kids can learn the importance of balancing "wants" and "needs," and how to create several outfits using a few pieces of clothing. As you agree on items to purchase, write them down. Make sure you have a list when you go shopping, and make sure you stick to the list.

Then: Figure out where to get it.

Once you know what you need, you can start planning your shopping trip. Look for back-to-school sales, clip coupons, and check the Internet for "on-line only" specials. Remember that you don't have to buy everything at once. Wait for the items your child needs to go on sale. It might mean venturing out two or three times before school starts, but you'll save more money (and maybe teach your child the benefit of being patient).

When you finally go shopping, start at the back of the store - where the sales racks are. Discount and clearance racks usually contain clothes with prices that have been reduced by 50 percent or more, and sometimes by as much at 80 percent. You'll have to sort through a lot of stuff that's the wrong size or - in the words of your teenage daughter - "not cute," but you can find good clothes at great prices on the sale racks.

Finally: Offset some of the cost.

Remember all those clothes you took out of your child's closet because they don't fit her anymore? Guess what? They probably fit someone else's kid. Rather than donating them or packing them into your storage closet, take them to a consignment shop and see if you can sell any of them. A consignment shop will sell the clothes for you and give you a portion of the proceeds. By reselling some of your child's old clothes, you can recoup some of the money you spent buying new ones. A garage sale can help with this too.

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