You know the end of summer is rapidly approaching when you’re sick of being sweaty, you’re dreaming of falling leaves and pumpkin-flavoured desserts and you’re faced with the mammoth task of getting your children outfitted for the new school year. Say it with me people – School Clothes Shopping!
For families on a budget (and really, who isn’t), the thought of shopping for school clothes can be daunting—hemorrhaging money, wrangling kids to multiple stores, (think herding cats), return trips for exchanges…ugh!!! I haven’t always been at peace with the process and there were many years when we bought too much (e.g. endless Old Navy t-shirts) or didn’t get everything we actually needed (e.g. no new socks). But I’ve come up with a great (and pretty simple) process that not only makes back to school shopping much less stressful for the adults in our household, but also helps teach our kids important budgeting skills.
To start, have your kids clean out their closets (purge people, purge) and make a list of the items they’ll need for the upcoming school year. Help guide them to the realization that doubling up on the basics is good (jeans/socks/undies), while sparingly purchasing the latest trends is smarter in the long run as they’ll probably only want to wear those items for a short period of time.
2. Set a Budget
After reviewing their lists and your family’s budget, give them a set amount of money to work with. However, purposely ensure the designated amount will not cover absolutely everything on their lists. You are teaching them REAL LIFE skills. I’m pretty sure most of us don’t have enough money (ever) to buy everything on our list, so we learn to prioritize.
3. Hunt for Promotions & Coupons
Teach them the value of the saying, “A dollar saved is a dollar earned.” Help them to hunt down coupons, inquire about store sales and research promotions online. Also be sure to enlighten them about the monetary benefits of buying generic (think, “You’ll never pay more, but you might pay less.”).
4. Contribute Supplemental Funds
Remember how you purposely didn’t give them enough money for everything on their lists? Well, now would be a good time to encourage them to supplement the money you’ve provided with funds of their own (e.g. allowance/birthday/babysitting earnings). If they really want everything on their lists, or if they really want that name brand item, they can chip in some of their own hard-earned cash.
5. Sell on Consignment
Bonus…with the popularity of online consignment stores and local Facebook garage sale groups, you can encourage your kids to wash, photograph and post the gently used items they’ve grown out of to sell online (for safety reasons, I would suggest you post using a parental account). This only works well if your kids are growing like weeds, as you aren’t trying to fleece other parents by selling them really worn out clothes.
6. Two Separate Shopping Trips
Dividing school clothes shopping into two parts (one in the fall, one in the spring) actually works better for the budget and those of us that suffer from shopping anxiety. You won’t buy mounds of clothes that won’t work in different weather all at once, plus the kids get excited to ‘top up’ their closets with the latest styles (despite not wanting to take our advice about the current ‘90s fashion trend even though most of us lived it for real during the actual ‘90s).
The interesting part is how differently our children chose to spend their budgets…The youngest, our only boy, is a sports fanatic, and without some (kind of) gentle guidance on my part, would happily spend his entire budget at the Under Armour outlet store. Our youngest daughter is the best budgeter of the lot and has discovered what an asset her mother’s closet can be when it comes to expanding her own wardrobe. And finally, we’re pretty lucky that our oldest daughter loves the “hand-me-ups” she gets from her younger sister, who is not only taller, but also decidedly more knowledgeable when it comes to fashion.