Back to School Shopping

by Pat Veretto

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Back to School for Less

Yikes. Didn't the kids just get out of school? Nevertheless, it's time to start thinking about saving on back to school clothes and other items. If you're on your frugal toes, you already have some stash against that expense, but even if you don't, or don't have enough, there's still plenty of time to work at it.

School clothes can be a major expense, with estimates ranging from $750 for a family of four to that much per child!

One thing we all know is buying back to school clothes all at one time at a department store with a credit card (even if they are on sale) is frugal suicide. But, what are the alternatives?

Garage sales can be back to school treasure troves. We're in the middle of garage sale season, so take a look. Take your time and find the very best clothing. Kids don't want to go to school looking as if they are wearing old clothes, and they don't have to. Top of the line quality clothing can be hardly worn since kids grow fast, and some parents buy brand name clothing for "good" (limited) wear. (Don't gripe about those parents! Love 'em, as they're what make our job easier.)

Watch out for backpacks or book bags, coats and jackets, and other cold weather gear, too. You might find teachers' Christmas gifts, and pencils, pens, notebooks, and sheets of stickers or other goodies, which make going back to school special. Make a list of what to look for and take it with you.

If your children carry lunches, plan for that. Watch out for lunch boxes, wide mouth thermos bottles and plastic sandwich carriers.

Don't let the season panic you, take your time when you shop garage sales and buy only the best.

Shop smart for the best back to school bargains. I know... that's a worn-out phrase, but it still makes sense. If you can't find what's on your list, remember that the kids can only wear one outfit at a time! In other words, you don't have to buy everything ahead of time, so if you can't find decent bargains now or even later, don't buy yet.

Bide your time. Sometimes retailers overstock in anticipation for back to school shoppers, and the best bargains are "back to school" sales after school has started.

Plan on spending a certain amount, and don't take more than that with you. If you can, take cash. Leave the checkbook and the credit card at home. You'll be surprised at how careful that can make you. It's so much easier to stick to the budget when you don't have any choice!

Don't buy "outfits." Instead, buy mix and match pieces, and you won't have to buy so much to make enough outfits for good variety.

Let your kids help. Sounds dangerous, doesn't it? It isn't though, if you give your child a set amount and help them understand that there isn't any more available for clothing. Most kids are happier wearing a shirt all school year that they chose at a $5 sale than a shirt you chose for five times that price.

If they're old enough, give them the money and then let them pay for the items themselves. Shop with them if you need to, but let them make the choices. Make sure that they understand they have to live with those choices.

Getting ready for back to school is second only to Christmas in many retailers' plans, and that's a good enough reason to make our own plans to not overspend in response to their advertising.

Pat Veretto is a work-at-home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances.

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