The back-to-school shopping rush can be stressful for any family on a tight budget. Every fall, families with school-age children pour into Wal-marts and Targets across the country, hunting down the best deals on their kids’ new school supplies. The school districts arm you with lists of pens, pencils, notebooks and clothes, but they don’t usually provide useful information about how to shop for this stuff on a budget.
Pens and pencils aside, new clothing ranks among the costliest back-to-school items that kids usually need. Children grow up like stalks of corn. By the end of each school year they’ve outgrown every pair of pants and shoes in their closets. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, but it usually means another trip to the store and more money out of your pocket.
If your local school has a uniform, your shopping needs are even more urgent. Unless your kids are decked out in the right attire, they won’t even be allowed in the door. So how does middle-class family make it work? Instead of stressing this year when the back-to-school list comes out, consider these five tips for clothes shopping on a budget.
1) Go in with a budget
When you’re lost among the endless racks of discount clothing at your nearest department store, it can be easy to lose sight of your goal. Just because a package of shirts is a great deal, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Ask yourself: do your kids even need shirts? The best way to avoid mission drift in the clothing aisle is to go in with a tight budget and stick to it.
2) Trade in your old clothes
Many stores like Crossroads Trading Post will actually give you a store credit for your old, lightly worn clothes. Before you start shelling out dollar bills for a whole new wardrobe, see if there are any thrift stores that will take your hand-me-downs. With a little salesmanship you might be able to finance a significant portion of your shopping with old trade-ins.
3) Let your kids have their own style
You don’t have to dress your children as little clones of each other. Grant each one a little latitude to express his or her individuality. If you let your kids establish their own styles with one or two “vanity” items, they’ll be much happier swallowing the K-mart brand tee shirts filling up the rest of your cart.
4) Socks and underwear first
For the most part, your kids can get buy with a few pairs of pants and a handful of graphic tees. The most important items to buy in bulk are socks and underwear. We all know how tough kids can be on their clothes. Make sure you have at least two weeks worth of socks and underwear at the ready or you may spend the rest of the school year doing laundry on a nightly basis.
5) Know what to buy in bulk
Your tenth grader and your sixth grader probably can’t share their jeans (yet), but they can probably both fit into the same medium-sized white undershirt. Undershirts and boxer shorts are great for large families because they can be readily shared amongst siblings. Take advantage.
Evan Fischer is a contributing writer for Sidepon, you could use these NYandCo coupons at checkout and find many other codes and discounts to apply towards your favorite brands.