It's almost here again: time for the kids to head back to school. But before they set foot on that school bus, you'll most likely be heading to the local mall to outfit them for that first day. For moms on a budget, the back to school wardrobe can be a frightening prospect. Your kids are begging for Tommy, Ralph, and Doc Marten, but your wallet wants to head to Wal-Mart. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your back-to-school buck while still giving kids what they want:
Use this as an opportunity to teach budgeting skills. Tell your kids know how much money you have to spend, and let them participate in the decision-making process. Even young children understand the concept of money. Older kids can be given a clothing allowance for them to spend as they wish. Anything they want over and above their allowance should be paid for by babysitting, mowing lawns, etc.
Buy only one outfit to start with, saving most of your money for later on. Chances are your kids will come home from school having seen all the new trends they missed out on and wished they had. With money left over, they can get what they really want. Plus, retailers will start marking down their fall clothes after all the back-to-school shopping has died down a little.
Shop thrift stores. Jeans, jackets, shoes, and shirts can be found for $1-$5 per item at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. Many times shops like these even have half-price or bag days where you can save even more. If you shop frequently, you most likely will be able to find the brand names your kids are looking for. No one will ever know that their "new" Gap sweatshirt was second-hand!
Check out e-Bay. The online auction service often has great deals on new or slightly worn clothing. You can name your price, with nothing to lose. Most sellers offer a photo of the items being sold, and have a seller's feedback rating indicating the number of positive comments they've received, which can increase the first-time bidder's comfort level. Search by size, brand name, or description. A recent search on "Tommy Hilfiger" came up with 4,394 matches!
Have your church or mom's group sponsor a clothing swap. Advertise in your local paper for moms to bring their outgrown children's clothing in good condition to your specified location. You can use a "point" system; whereby you receive tokens in exchange for the items you donate. Leftover items can be donated to charity.
Realize that brand names do matter. Kids can be cruel, and wearing the "wrong" labels can make your child the target of unwanted teasing and bullying. Teach your kids that their clothes do not define them, but do allow them to wear the brand names that are in demand.
Kim Danger is a wife and mother. She has a degree in Marketing and works from the home. Visit her website mommysavers.com and subscribe to the free weekly newsletter!
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