By: Paige Rogers
As the end of summer approaches, parents find themselves dreading the expense of back-to-school shopping, and with good reason. Many families end up spending several hundred dollars to outfit each child. You don’t have to drain your checking account, however, to ensure your child is appropriately clothed for school. A little planning will go a long way toward slashing clothing expenditures. Here are tips for saving money on those back-to-school shopping trips.
Now is the time to take inventory of your child’s closet and weed out worn and outgrown items of clothing. Note that some summer items, such as light dresses, can do autumn duty. Pair them with new leggings for school wear. Donate outgrown clothing to charity or take them to a consignment store to help pay for new clothes.
Make a list
Jot down what your child already has and what he or she needs. Get input from your child to avoid the nuisance of making a number of returns down the road. For girls, consider buying a few quality basics to team with less costly accessories such as tights, scarves, and belts. Promise yourself you will not stray from the list.
Set a budget
Take a look at what you spent last year, and challenge yourself to spend less this year. Decide how much of the budget goes to needs and how much goes to wants. You might decide to allocate 90 percent of your budget to necessities and allow your child to spend the remainder on items he or she particularly wants. Involve your child in the process to teach the difference between needs and wants.
Shop in stages
Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for clothes. While you might snag a great bargain or two, you are likely to spend more money in an effort to get your shopping out of the way. Try buying one or two outfits for the first days of school and then take advantage of clearance sales that typically begin two or three weeks later. Scan newspapers and circulars for end-of-summer specials. Buying clothing out of season is always a great way to save money. You can pick up items at season’s end to wear the following year for a fraction of the regular price.
Search consignment stores
More parents are turning to consignment stores to cut clothing costs. Many of these stores offer name-brand clothing in excellent or very good condition. Kids who turn up their noses at the thought of wearing used clothes may change their minds when they see how far their budget will stretch at a consignment store. Make sure your child tries on clothing before buying because many consignment stores do not accept returns. Consider consigning your child’s stain-free, gently used clothing and put the proceeds toward your shopping trip.
Back-to-school shopping does not have to be a budget-breaking headache. Decide what you need, start early, and keep in mind that retailers know consumers are watching their spending this year. Remember, good deals are out there for shoppers willing to do their homework and stick to a plan.