Pens. Pencils. Notebooks. The amount of back-to-school gear for class is mind-boggling on its own. Add growth spurts and new fall fashions and the equation gets even more complicated!
But experts say families don’t have to dip into their life savings for back-to-school shoes and clothes – there’s plenty of ways to be thrifty. That’s especially good news since a recent Deloitte survey revealed that more than three out of four respondents (83%) said they’ll spend less on back-to-school threads this year.
The first step for families on a budget is to explain to kids why this back-to-school season you are limiting your purchases – not to scare them, but illustrate why your family is being frugal, says Alanna Stang, executive editor of Cookie magazine. “Talk to your kids about your situation if you are in financial difficulty,” she says. “Let them know there’s a different set of parameters. It’s not healthy to give them a false impression.”
Once you’ve had a talk about the budget—perhaps promising each kid gets to buy one “fun item" of their choosing—you’re ready to go. Here are MainStreet’s tips on how to save on back-to-school shopping:
BORROW INSTEAD OF BUY
Hand-me-downs are the easiest way to save money because they’re free, Stang says. Got only one kid? Not a problem. Convene a clothing swap other thrift-minded parents and rotate all the kids’ threads. “If you can get a group where there’s a good span of ages, you can get a steady flow [of clothes],” says Stang.
INVEST IN VERSATILE CLOTHES
Get inexpensive basics cheaply (jeans, tees, button down shirts) and accessorize them cheaply (vests, belts, suspenders). “Buy pieces that can be accessorized a million different ways,” suggests Stang. Adds Zandile Blay, fashion blogger at The Blay Report], “It's much better to spend [your budget] on key, well-made pieces like a good shoe and a good bag (things you will wear day in and day out) than one trendy top which you can only wear for the first day back."
HIT VINTAGE OR CONSIGNMENT SHOPS
It’s never too early to teach your kids that Goodwill is hip! “There’s kids who are embarrassed and there’s the kids who just dig it,” says Stang.
SNIFF OUT THE SALES
There’s two key times to patrol the sales racks: Right this moment, or mid- to late-September. “Try to shop before the back-to-school promotions start,” suggests Stang, adding that many summer tee shirts or dresses can be worn into autumn. But Claire Sulmers, blogger at The Fashion Bomb, suggests you hold off on back-to-school shopping until current fashions are on sale. “Go after the whole wave,” she says.