The older we get the faster each year seems to fly by, especially when raising children. They grow up faster than we can keep up. Every parent enjoys this, but as children get closer to their teens, they sometimes outgrow clothing once or twice a year. And clothing trends are moving faster than ever, too, so kids want to have the hip, happening duds and kicks. It's enough to break the bank! By approaching back-to-school clothing shopping with some thought and planning, you can minimize the stress on yourself and your wallet and still afford your kids some fun, fashionable options.
First, take an inventory of your kids' closets. Separate all clothing and shoes into piles: clothes that still fit, clothes to be donated (or passed down) and clothes to be discarded. That way you know exactly what you're working with. Have them try on any items you're unsure about. There's no sense in buying multiples of pieces that still fit, and there's no sense in buying something your child dislikes and won't wear.
Next, make a complete list of items you need to purchase. Don't wait until the week before school to do this, otherwise you'll be short on time and (most likely) have less selection in stores. Include organizational details in the list, such as item of clothing, size(s) needed and even a few wish list items. Don't forget to include specialty items for sports, holidays, milestones and special occasions -- weddings, Holy Communion, graduation, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc. Shopping for all of these items before school starts is most efficient. But if your children are growing fast and you are unsure how much they will have grown by the middle or end of the school year, you may want to hold off on buying certain items. Buying a nice dress or suit at a phenomenally discounted price now won't matter if your child outgrows it by the holidays. Set a realistic budget for the shopping spree, and stick to it! Your budget will inform the stores in which you'll shop.
Bringing your kids along for the trip can be quite the task in itself. Many kids don't enjoy being driven store to store to try on clothes. So, if you know your child enjoys a particular brand and you know the sizes they need, save yourself some time and stress by buying those items online. Promo codes are often offered on department-store websites. You may even get coupons for 30 or 40 percent off purchases simply by joining an email list. (Spam emails are no fun, but if it saves you $50, who cares?) Or enroll in rebate programs, such as Ebates and FatWallet, to find guaranteed savings.
Many states have tax-free days for clothing purchases (up to a specified dollar amount), and some states don't even charge tax for inexpensive clothing. Find out whether your state offers any tax-incentive days, and plan to do your local shopping then. Otherwise, poke around brand websites, look out for banners showing dates of upcoming sales and plan to hit stores then.
When it comes to the actual shopping day there are a few things to keep in mind. Clothing is an important part of self-expression for teens, so bring them along on the shopping trip (if they desire) so they have input. They may want to buy the name-brand version of the must-have trends. But more generic brands often have very similar styles for less. You'll most likely find these items at larger department stores than boutiques.
The key to maximizing a wardrobe while minimizing spending is buying pieces that you can mix and match. Items that can be used year-round for all seasons are even better. Concentrate on tops and bottoms in more basic colors (less graphic tees), and let your child pick out a few inexpensive but trendy accessories to spice up any outfit and add versatility.
If your child seems to be between two sizes buy the larger size. It's easier and more cost-effective to make a temporary hem or sew a dart into a waistband than to replace the item. Plus, comfort goes a long way during the school day. Squeezing into tight jeans won't help.
In fact, if you and your children are interested in arts and crafts or sewing, enjoy some bonding time by doing sewing projects together. Repurpose a few prized pieces of clothing from last year's wardrobe, or add a fun embellishment to a hand-me-down.
Don't dismiss ways to engage with other families in your community. If there are a lot of growing families in your town, perhaps arrange a meet-and-swap. Who knows, you and your kids may make new friends in the process. Local garage sales and thrift stores are great places to look for clothing in relatively good condition. What's more, you can bring in your gently used clothing to donate and possibly receive store credits or tax write-offs.
Not everything about back-to-school shopping has to be stressful. Try one of these approaches and you and your children are sure to have a fruitful and fun shopping experience.