American parents with kids in kindergarten through 12th grade are expected to spend $27 billion on back-to-school shopping this year. Individual families may find themselves spending an average $500 or more per child, depending on when they shop, and back-to-school clothes alone take up a big chunk of that.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say that back-to-school clothes shopping seems like a competition in which parents compete with one another over who has the best-dressed kids.
But isn’t going to school about getting a good education? Yes, but kids don’t have to do it in rags.
But still, there are much better ways to spend $500-plus than on clothes and shoes that they’ll outgrow in a few months.
I spent way more money than I usually do on an education for my child and summer reading programs this year. So I need to save money on items that aren't compulsory, like designer clothes. Luckily, I’ve compiled a list of the best ways and places to get cheap back-to-school clothes.
What to Buy for Back-to-School Clothes
Shopping for used clothes first will always be a part of my strategy. What parents need to realize is that fall school clothes are just the beginning, especially if you have young kids, who are constantly growing.
You may also have to buy new winter shoes and sweaters, along with summer and spring clothes.
My son outgrew all his summer outfits this year. Lucky for me, I could get him a whole new wardrobe by spending only $60, which included $20 gym shoes and a new pair of shorts. Everything else I bought was used.
You can check out local thrift stores for good deals. Another place to go are end-of-summer garage sales where you can find kids’ tops and bottoms for no more than $1 each.
Don’t Shy Away From Hand-Me-Downs
There’s nothing wrong with accepting hand-me-downs. I’m thankful that I have family members who have children older than my son and who pass down nice clothes to me from time to time. I use the clothes to piece together extra outfits that I can mix in with the new things I buy.
If you have friends, family members, neighbors, or coworkers who offer you free clothes, don’t be afraid to look through them. Some people just really want to get rid of their clutter and would be happy to give items like clothing away if they know you’d find better use for them.
Shop Online and Use Coupons
I find shopping online much easier in most cases. Plus, it allows me to stick to my budget better, since I can see exactly how much I’m spending at all times.
I use sites like ThredUp – an online consignment shop – to find nice but inexpensive clothes for my child. I also go to cash-back sites like Ebates to find coupons and deals that I can apply to my final total, all the while earning cash back on the entire purchase.
Even if you’re not a big couponer, don’t completely avoid using back-to-school coupons. Stores like Target, Kohls, and Old Navy usually offer great deals through coupons.
Additionally, some companies like WalMart, offer specials online with site-to-store shipping. This allows you to use any special offers online, and pick up within one to two days without needing to pay extra shipping costs. This can save you $5 – $25 in shipping costs, something that often times goes overlooked in the overall cost!
However, don’t let the temptation of getting a deal or an upcoming coupon expiration date prompt you to spend extra money unnecessarily. Just pick up what your kid needs.
Wait It Out for Holiday Sales
A 2016 study found that, “60 percent of shoppers hitting stores before August are likely to spend an average of $532, 16 percent higher than the remaining 40 of parents who start shopping in August or later ($458).” Retailers are smart, and while they will offer some decent sales early on, savvy shoppers should know that the most enticing deals are often revealed at the last minute.
Since Labor Day is a huge holiday for retailers, you may be able to save quite a bit on back-to-school clothes by holding off until September to do your shopping. If your child goes back to school in August and it’s still warm in your area, you can send them to school in their summer clothes for one to two weeks, then add to their fall wardrobe when the weather cools down.
As an added tip, make a back-to-school clothes list before you get started, just like you would for groceries. Set a budget so you know how much you can comfortably spend. Then take an inventory of which clothing items your child already has and what you’ll need to buy new or used.