Back to School on a Budget: Shopping Tips for Parents
BY SHARON MOSLEY
Editor’s Note: The following column was originally published in 2009.
Let’s talk about the biggest “B” word this fall. It may be time to head “back” to school, but for many parents, the biggest “B” in their bonnets will be “Budget.”
“It’s evident that parents are more financially conscious than ever before, budgeting for groceries, family trips and now back-to-school shopping,” says Katherine Hurley, vice president and general merchandise manager for Lands’ End Kids. “As a result, smart moms are using a variety of shopping strategies to be sure kids are ready to head back to class.”
In a recent survey of moms conducted by Lands’ End and Parents Magazine, more than 63 percent of respondents stated that when it comes to back-to-school shopping and spending, they are more anxious this year compared to last year.
But getting your kids ready for school in style doesn’t have to be an anxiety-ridden, budget-busting experience. Here are some basic shopping strategies to help ease the back-to-school budget blues:
—Have a Family Meeting: That’s right, pick a time where you can all sit down and strategize. Don’t wait until you arrive at the store and your kids start whining about why they can’t have the $150 sneakers or hoodies in 10 different colors. Talk about your budget concerns before you go shopping, and let your kids be involved so that they understand the spending parameters.
—Clean Up Your Closets: This is a no-brainer, but many of us forget to do it. Help your kids clean out their closets before they buy new clothes. Separate what fits from what doesn’t. You never know how many pairs of jeans may be lurking in the deep dark recesses of those closets, buried underneath layers of unseen T-shirts and towels. Donate anything that doesn’t fit to a charity.
—Make a List: Another often overlooked necessity. But you probably make a list when you go grocery shopping, don’t you? Why not use the same procedure when shopping for back-to-school clothes? Check off the list as you’re shopping. You can even duplicate lists so that every child has a copy. Then, when you get to the store, stick to your lists.
—Allow for a Treat: Shopping for back-to-school clothes may not be every child’s dream come true, but you can make it more appealing to kids. Set aside a small amount of money so they can pick out one “special” item — a cool pair of shoes or a special headband — to wear on the first day of school. And that’s only if they stick to the original budget!
—Mix It Up: One of the best ways to obtain the most for your fashion dollar is to purchase mix-and-match coordinates. This is a great way for kids to express their own personality in putting their clothes together, and it provides for many more outfit choices.
Take your daughter’s favorite denim skirt from summer. With an additional pair of leggings, you can extend the skirt’s wear into fall. Those same leggings can be added to other knit dresses and tunics for even more wearable looks.
—Look for Quality: Beware of buying the cheapest clothes you can find. If clothes can’t withstand multiple washings, recesses and play days, then they are not great bargains. And if you want “hand-me-down” potential, stick to quality clothing.
Look for reinforced knees, adjustable waistbands, double-stitched seams and pre-washed pieces that minimize shrinkage and hold color. You never know … hopefully you’ll find some of the new clothes will actually make another appearance this time next year.
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