As the summer draws to an end, back to school activities are at the forefront of my mind.
Of course, my kids don’t go “back to school” since we do homeschool preschool (find out how we do it!), but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on all the back to school fun. We get to enjoy fresh boxes of crayons and fun new back to school clothes too!
Back to school shopping can cause some stress though, especially over how much it costs. The biggest budget buster is back to school clothes, especially if you have more than one kiddo to dress. Here are my top tips to save money on school clothes, essentially outfitting your kids without going broke!
9 Tips to Save Money on School Clothes
1. Get Organized
Take inventory of what your kids already have that still fits. See if it’s time to pass something along to a younger sibling. Be sure to include any clothing that just needs minor repairs to be back to (nearly) new.
2. Make a List
Having a list of what you still need to get will help you stay on track and only get what you need. Without a list it’s easy to get sucked into the sales and clearances and end up with stuff that you don’t need.
3. Re-fashion Tired or Worn Out Styles
If you’re moderately skilled with a sewing machine, consider refashioning items that your kids no longer like. Have them show you what trends they do like and see if you can figure out how to recreate it with what you have.
Adding a decal or fun elbow patches might be enough to transform last years style into something your kids will continue to love. Check out my Kids Clothes Refashion Pinterest board for inspiration!
4. Clothing Swaps
Before deciding to buy anything, check around for a kids clothing swap (or host your own) where you can get great clothes for free. Typically you will donate your kids outgrown clothes to the swap and receive credit to put towards picking out new clothes. The bigger the swap the more choices there will be. Find local swaps through mom’s groups, churches, and local consignment retailers.
Some parents are worried that they will donate nice clothes and won’t be able to find anything they like. If this is a concern for you, consider donating a smaller amount to start so you can check out the swap and see if it suits you.
5. Uniform Buy Back
Private schools that require uniforms often have a “store” where outgrown or no longer needed uniforms are donated. You can either swap for an existing piece (outgrown shirt for a used shirt that fits) or buy the used item outright. The prices are very reasonable – as low as $5 per piece compared to $50 brand new!
6. Check Consignment Stores
For items that can’t be refashioned, collect them and sell them at a consignment store or online and put the money you earn towards new school clothes. If you sell old clothes at a consignment store you can often get more for your clothes if you choose a store credit over cash. Then you can squeeze more out of your budget by using the credit for new-to-you school clothes.
Consignment stores usually have a higher standard for quality than a thrift store, so you can be sure everything they are selling is free of stains and holes. August and September are great months to go consignment shopping since many families are cleaning out clothes that don’t fit their kids anymore and replacing them with new school clothes, which means more of a selection for you.
7. Shop Online
Another great way to find quality used clothes is online. Many people will sell “lots” of their kids outgrown clothes on Craigslist or Ebay. Often you can get a bunch of nice clothes this way. The downside is that you don’t get to pick each item that’s included in the lot so you may not like everything. On the other hand, the low price may be worth not liking one or two items if you do like the others.
Another possibility is an online consignment store like Thredup.com or Swap.com. The best part of shopping an online consignment store is that you can browse through the “rack” right at home. These online consignment stores usually accept clothes through the mail which might be a good alternative to delivering them to a local consignment store.
8. Hit the Mall
Window shop before you go anywhere. Browse online (and ask your kids to browse with you) to get an idea of what styles are popular, what stores have what you’re looking for and if they have the best prices. Add notes to your list so you know what to look for where.
For example, if you need jeans and Old Navy has jeans on sale, note it on your list so you don’t buy jeans at another place for much more.
Starting in July, many stores offer discounts on back to school clothes and accessories. If you’re looking for jeans this is the best time to buy them. School uniforms will also be on sale.
9. Wait it Out
Consider waiting until school starts to buy most of your back to school clothes. Kids often want what their peers have and may come back to you a week into school desperately needing a new item or desperately hating something they’ve already picked out.
Waiting to buy clothes has another advantage – fall season clothes will be deeply discounted by October (to make room for winter styles).
If you’re looking for more tips on putting together a nice wardrobe inexpensively check out my post on building a minimalist wardrobe. You may find something that helps you update your own wardrobe inexpensively!
How do you save for school clothes? Any ideas for saving on uniforms? Leave your suggestions in the comments!
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