Back to School shopping was always a BIG deal growing up in my house. My parents didn’t have a lot of money but they still made it a fun annual tradition. We each would have a budget and we would spend all day shopping and go out to lunch. It was kind of fun. Fast forward 20 years and that “Back to School Shopping Day” is a luxury we just can’t afford. At the same time, that doesn’t mean my kids can’t go back to school well dressed and happy.
1. Planning of Preparation: This so important! You have to take inventory of what you already have, what kind of shape the clothes are in, and what still fits.
For example: My oldest daughter went from a Children’s Place size 7/8 to 10/12. That is a HUGE jump on their part. She has been in that size for a year so far and will be through next year at least. Plus, sometimes her jeans sizes are a size smaller than her tops, depending on the brand.
Here is how I handled it:
- When getting out her summer clothes and putting away her winter stuff, I went through every piece of clothing and put aside any tops and bottoms and dresses that would work for her this school year.
- Then I make a list of what my goal is for her wardrobe. For bottoms: 3 skorts, 1 denim skirt, 4 pairs of leggings (solid colors including some neutral), 1 pair of jeggings, 2 pairs of yoga pants, and 2 pairs of fleece pants (we live where it gets really cold).
- After I see what has survived last year and still fits her (may required child to try on clothes), then I have a goal of what to buy and I’m not shopping “blindly.”
2. Freecycle: As I start to shop, first I look at my resources for getting as many of the clothing items I need for FREE. Freecycle is a local group you can sign up for where you get emails into your account whenever someone in your group posts. People are either looking for things or giving away things for FREE! So you can do an ISO post for children’s clothing and list the sizes and gender to see if anyone has anything available. Usually you either go to their house or meet someone public to pick up your items.
3. Craigslist: This is my next stop because not only do people sell clothing and advertise yard sales, there is also a FREE section for people who don’t want to be bothered and just want to give stuff away. Also, on Saturdays in summer look for posts that sale “Yardsale Leftovers” or “Curbside Pick-Up.” After yard sales, people don’t want to have to bother hauling everything away so they leave it curbside and post it on Craigslist. I have done this 3 years in a row and have been able to get rid of almost everything that way. Once I had a whole tub of baby clothes that I pregnant woman was able to come and pick-up for FREE and they were in pretty good shape.
4. Ebay: It’s similar to Craiglist except most transactions involve shipping and you can’t physically see the product until it comes. However many people sell entire lots of clothing of a certain size and gender. You can get a great deal this way. Your best best is to check the seller’s reviews and ratings to see what others have to say about their purchases. Only go with sellers that have a good track record.
5. Consignment Stores: This is next. Granted they are not always the cheapest place to purchase an entire wardrobe. However, at stores like Once Upon a Child, I’m able to sell things like shoes, dresses, coats, snow boots, and other items that are in great shape. In return I’m able to turn around and purchase what I need.
Example: Last year I turned in my kids winter coats, snow boots, and snow pants, and was able to purchase bathing suits, flip flops, and sandals. It cost me NOTHING out of pocket!
6. Thrift Stores: After all of that, if I still have clothing or shoe items to check off my list, this is where I go. Goodwill and Salvation Army generally sell kids clothing for $1-5. Salvation Army has half-priced Wednesdays for even more savings. Goodwill color codes their tags and marks down specific colors by 25% each day. Plus, Goodwill Buys all of Target’s Surplus clearance items and sells them in their stores. Because of this, I have been able to track down full packages of new underwear and socks for just a couple dollars!
7. Clearance Racks: This refers to in stores and online clearance. The Children’s Place is a personal favorite of mine. They have a Monster Sale every year in June/July and December/January. Plus, there are usually coupon codes on top of that. If you have a PlaceCARD you can save an EXTRA 5% on all purchases on top of other discounts. I often get clothing items for $3-$4 each. Plus what’s nice about children’s place is that all of their clothing items can mix and match giving you more outfit options. Old Navy, Target, and Kohl’s are also excellent places to get great deals on clothes.
8. Clothing Swaps: There are a couple ways you can do this. Thred-Up is an online clothing swap you can try. You can also organize your own local clothing swap with other families with kids. Invite families you know from your neighborhood, church, or children’s schools over for a potluck. Ask them to all bring any gently used clothing their kids have outgrown. Set up some tables or spaces to organize clothing by size and gender. That way everyone gets a meal and goes home with some nice clothing items.
Here are some other resources:
- Back to School Clothes on a Budget
- Saving Money on Kids Clothes: Tips from Our Readers
- Target Clearance Today, Goodwill Tomorrow