The thing they don’t tell you when you have a sweet little newborn baby is that some day, that sweet baby is going to grow up. He’ll be like… almost as big as you. And he’ll need clothes to wear. He may even have an opinion on those clothes but the real point is that he’ll need clothes that don’t have holes in them or stains. He’ll need shoes & guess what – his sweet baby feet are now long, lanky, big, smelly feet (almost as big as yours) & the shoes he’s gonna need cost just about as much as yours. Yeah, just think on that for a minute. His shoes will cost as much (if not more) than yours.
Now, multiply that times the number of kids you have & bam – you’ve got a back to school mortgage payment on your hands. We aren’t even figuring in school supplies, by the way.
This year I officially have 3 out of 4 kids in school. We’ve been really lucky with hand me downs for the little boys, with the exception of the few years we lived on a sub tropical island. Now living in the midwest we need snow gear so that’s something we usually need to buy.
Either way, kids need clothes & clothes are expensive & just as soon as you’ve bought all their clothes – guess what – they have a growth spurt. Awesome. So from time to time, I try & save money on the clothes my kids need. I’ve been super successful this year so I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned.
Ways to Save Money on Back to School Clothes
1. Get rid of the old stuff.
The first thing I did, which I can admit I’ve never actually done before was take a full inventory of everything the kids had. Normally, I just hit the stores & kinda guess. Eh, they probably need new jeans… maybe a sweater? This time I took a full inventory & kept a list of things they had & things they needed on my phone. That way, if I happened to be out & see a good deal I’d know exactly what they needed & didn’t need. Then I went through alllll the kids clothes I’d been saving for years & separated the things that couldn’t be handed down to my little boys. I took all those things to my local kid’s consignment shop & got paid. I literally cashed that check & drove to the shoe store where I spent the exact amount I made on 4 pair of shoes for 4 kids.
2. Shop thrift & consignment.
The things the consignment store didn’t take I donated to our local thrift store. While I was there I was also able to scout out some denim for my kiddos. Basically, brand new jeans for $3 a piece. In my experience, the thrift stores in my area are hit or miss but Ive learned how to do a fast assessment of the racks, a tip I learned from my friend Stasia at Thrift Me Pretty. I’ve been buying kid’s clothes for a few years now so once I realized how easy it was for me to spot name brands in a sea of hangers it made my life so much easier. The brands I usually buy for my kids all have a similar look, texture & they tend to follow very similar color palettes. I use those clues to whiz through racks in thrift stores so I’m not there for more than 10 minutes sometimes. If I could only manage to apply the same principle to my clothes! I’m still working on that. We are also really lucky to have 2 great consignment stores in our area (one being the same one I sold our stuff to!). I use the rack assessment tool when I’m there as well. The big things I look for at consignment stores are cold winter gear, name brands & quality shoes. Two big scores this year: a pair of leather hiking boots (retailing for $60). We paid under $5 for them. And a pair of Keens (retailing for $50). We paid $15 for them. I also got a couple items, new with tags.
3. Watch out for sales – big ones.
My fav thing to look out for are big sales at my most frequented stores. A lot of people buy their clothes around August but some stores don’t run their big sales till Labor Day. Some stores have even better sales in October. The point is, if you live in an area where the weather will still be mild & summer like, chances are the kiddos won’t need something brand new to wear the first few weeks of school. I make sure I’m on the email list of all my fav kid brands stores so I know first when the sales are happening. Also, check out competitors sales. We went to Stride Rite to buy shoes, where they were having a BOGO 40% off. We couldn’t find all the sizes we wanted so we went across the street to Famous Footwear, where they were having a BOGO 50% off & then we also saved an EXTRA 20% off by signing up for their rewards program (free). And that’s how we got so many pair of shoes for so little cash! The 2 pair of shoes I couldn’t get at the stores I can home & ordered online through Stride Rite to take advantage of their BOGO offer.
4. Invest in stuff that lasts.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m very brand loyal. I know the brands my kids can wear, that wash well & can easily be passed down. When I can’t find those brands looking fantastic & used, I’ll buy them new. But I try & stick to the handful of brands I know are very good quality that way my purchase won’t be wasted when it gets washed or starts showing holes. I have no problem paying for quality over quantity. This goes for backpacks & lunch boxes too.
5. Stop trying to keep up with everyone else.
This was a big one for me this year. I suddenly realized, my kids didn’t need all the stuff I thought they did. A lot of my friends buy new backpacks, lunch boxes, first day of school outfits. I thought about that. I really thought a lot about it. Would my kids look ratty if they didn’t have brand new clothes the first day? Would they be teased? Would the first day of school be not as special? So I asked my kids, do you need this? Do you need a new thing right now? Their answer? Nope, the stuff we have is fine! That was all I needed to know. Just so you know, I have nothing against new clothes or backpacks the first day (for the record, my daughter wore a $3 consignment dress & my son wore full price new shoes). I love my friends & they love me & the best part is we all respect each other. The hurdle I had to overcome was knowing it’s ok for other people to do that & it doesn’t mean we have to follow. Our family happens to have 1 – 3 more kids than most my friends! That is our reality, as a big family, with lots of kiddos. And it’s ok.
6. Keep an eye on discount sites.
This is my favorite tip because it means I get to do lots of online window shopping, which is a past time of mine. My 3 favorite sites for discount stuff are 6pm.com, Thred Up & Zulily. Any time my kids need shoes especially, I will check out 6pm.com. I’ve gotten ridiculously good deals from them in the past (including my Frye boots I bought for almost 50% off – whaaaaat?!). I know. It’s good. Real good. Also with Thred Up you can not only shop but send in your old stuff as well! And you know you’ve got some old clothes lurking in your closet too so get rid of em & buy yourself something new(ish)! I won’t tell the kids.