We’re in the midst of the second largest shopping event of the year: Back to School. It also happens to be the second most profitable event for retailers who look to bring in $83.3 billion nationwide. Families with kids gearing up for school will spend an average of $688.62 according to the National Retail Federation (NFR). This is significantly up compared to last year’s average of $603.63. While you can get the greatest deals on supplies themselves by following my advice from a couple weeks ago, school supplies such as pens, paper, notebooks, crayons, glue, and the like will be about $100 or less of the overall bill. The average family will spend north of $400 on clothes alone!
Here are four of my favorite tips for getting more ‘back to school’ for the money!
1. Go on a treasure hunt! You may not need as much as you think you do. Comparing your teacher-provided supplies list to what you can find in drawers, closets, and bins may yield a fairly small ‘needs’ list once you realize what you have. If you are bargain hunting for all the ‘loss leader’ deals at the office, drug, and grocery retailers, it still makes sense to buy more than you immediately need – but assembling your current supplies together is a smart plan for staying on top of your home office and school inventory.
This should go without saying, but the same goes for clothes! Look for everything that needs to get handed down, donated, or tossed. After everything has moved to it’s proper category, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you need – and may protect yourself from overspending on clothes you don’t actually need.
2. Let someone else pay for the depreciation of new kids’ clothes. Buy used instead! Results can vary of course, but realize that you are saving 60%-90% on jeans, shoes, shirts, backpacks, jackets, and more just because an item has been worn a dozen times? At the rate of kids’ growth, it’s always been one of the biggest no-brainers in my family. I understand you can’t (or may not want) to go this route for everything – but please make sure you’ve done your due diligence before paying full retail for anything. This includes buying a size or two ahead when you find something that otherwise works.
My wife and I love garage sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Craigslist, eBay, and consignment shops that specialize in kids’ clothes. Clothing exchanges can be a phenomenal opportunity – either with your own network of friends or through local organizations (usually churches). Do some research and you may be flabbergasted at what you can get for your kids for bargain basement prices – or through some effective trading! My biggest advice on used clothes shopping is always start early and talk to shop owners about their inventory. Many shoppers wait until the week or two before school and I can promise you that the selection can be very ‘picked over’ by then. The best months for buying back to school clothes? April and May – when used clothing retailers are trying to make way for Summer fashions.
3. Stick with the basics that can go with almost anything. Coordinated outfits are seldom a wise purchase for kids – as they will most certainly outgrow them before they can get really good use from them. Versatile clothing will create many more outfits and expand a wardrobe much better. Simply ask your fashion-forward tween if she wants five outfits or fifteen? Your purchases will make a big impact on what she’ll have to work with each morning.
4. Michele Forbis from Diamondale, MI posted on our facebook wall that she buys her Fall kids’ wardrobe in September / October when clothes go on clearance. She points out that “it’s too hot for fall clothes when school starts anyway.” In addition to the advantage of cost savings and weather appropriate timing of buying kids’ clothes in September and October, the extra month of being in school will likely give kids a better idea of what clothes they want to wear.
Another advantage of waiting is being able to spread out a $400 bill over three months. This may be much easier to digest than getting whacked in the wallet if you haven’t saved ahead for the second largest shopping event of the year. It’s entirely possible, that while you are loading up on clothing bargains in a month or two, you might find some opportunities for the number one shopping event right around the corner… Christmas!
Next week, I’ll share four more very valuable tips for getting the best bargains on clothes and other back to school essentials.
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