It’s that time of year! Those of us with children returning to school must face down all the preparations necessary for a smooth start to the new school year, and many of us also need to do so with an eye to stretching our back-to-school shopping budgets. Back-to-school expenses can add up fast, and we’re here to help you stretch your back-to-school dollar as far as possible! Read on for tips on economizing where you can and extending your shopping budget.
Go through your child’s wardrobe thoroughly, removing things that are too small but still useful and discarding things that have been destroyed or worn out. My own daughter, for example, always has a couple of outfits set aside for playing in the mud and the like—they are never donated or passed along, just thrown away or made into cleaning rags. You might be surprised to see what among their wardrobe is good for another season! Knowing what your child already has and avoiding unnecessary purchases is a great first step toward stretching your back-to-school shopping budget. And from one mom to another, remember that it is absolutely okay to bribe your child to try things on; little ones, especially, get tired of multiple outfit changes when there are no princess dresses, pirate outfits, or superhero costumes involved.
Move around clothing between siblings or among the children in your friend group! Hand-me-downs within a nuclear family are straightforward, but “only” children can benefit from hand-me-downs, too, if you find the right path. Is there a cousin one or two years older or a neighbor one or two years younger? Figure out how to disperse kids’ clothing among your circle of acquaintances so that nice children’s clothing gets as much use as possible! It is both ecologically and financially responsible to “use up” children’s clothing. High-quality children’s clothing from Lands’ End, such as kids t-shirts, is meant to be worn for more than one season and by more than one child; pass it along, and accept it when you can. If you can’t set up a kids’ clothing rota among your acquaintance, ask at your child’s school about a clothing closet. Especially at schools where uniforms are required, there is often a message board or group for passing around school clothes. Hand-me-downs and pass-alongs are a great way to take some pressure off your back-to-school shopping budget.
When you need to stretch your back-to-school shopping budget, it’s important to think about what your child needs in the moment. Perhaps you know that they need a new coatthis year, but since school starts in August or September, you can push shopping for a parka or snow boots until October or November. What items or outfits are actually necessary for the first few weeks of school? Fresh socks? Uniform pants that come all the way to the ankle after that summer growth spurt? Bright new shoes that weren’t worn “creeking” every day in July? Meeting your child’s immediate needs help you allocate your resources in the short term. Also, you might consider putting this idea to your kid with a positive spin—perhaps they’d like to gauge the trends and see “what the kids are wearing” before they make any big decisions such as what style of jeans they want or what backpack they would like for the year. Focusing on the first few weeks of school will stretch your back-to-school dollars and relieve shopping pressure.
When you know what you truly must purchase for your child’s return to school, make a list and—this is the tricky bit—stick to it! I encourage you to make the list as honestly as possible. It should include true necessities as well as the things you know will be purchased whatever your feelings on the matter. Does your child truly love a licensed character you sort of. . . don’t? Go ahead and put one thing featuring that character on your list. It will spare in-store arguments or unhappiness and help your child get excited for the new school year. More importantly, it will prevent an impulse purchase, which is precisely what you wish to avoid when you’re stretching your back-to-school shopping budget.
Once you have provided for immediate back-to-school needs, make another list of pieces you’ll need to find or purchase for your child going forward, in order of priority if possible. This list is for you, in that it will help you know what true necessities are coming down the proverbial pike, but it will also help the kid in your life see that you are on top of their needs, which provides a great deal of emotional security. Here’s a tip from me to you: if your little one (or not-so-little one!) really yearns for a specific item that will not be purchased at the moment, make a show of taking a photo of it with your phone and assuring them that you will re-visit that item the next time you shop. Sometimes that piece stays at the forefront of a kid’s mind and you’ll get it, sometimes they will find that they don’t care about it anymore. Personally, I find that keeping a “next item” written and/or photo list assures my daughter that I understand her needs and will fulfill them, as well as helping her feel that I take her wants seriously, even if she can’t have everything she wants.
Here’s a fact that can be hard to swallow when you’re intent on stretching your back-to-school shopping budget as far as possible, but we promise that it is a fact: Better is cheaper in the long run. Shop for better basics for your child. Features including sturdy fabrics, inside adjustable elastic waistbands, Iron Knees and Seats and Grow-A-Long sleeves mean that each piece of clothing you select will last and last—definitely more than one season and usually for more than one child. Really look at the per-use cost of a garment to determine its value. If you buy a parka that will be used for five seasons by three different kids before it gets donated to a winter coat drive where it will see even more use, the value of that piece is immense. That is the very best way to stretch your back-to-school shopping budget: Buy once, buy well, make it last.
Stretching your back-to-school shopping budget will actually help you feel less stressed and more in control of the entire back-to-school process. Buying less and selecting carefully may help prevent the overwhelming feeling of having to “get it all done” as well as the rapid influx of “stuff” into your living space that can be so stressful at back-to-school time. No matter what your situation or resources, shopping smart is better than shopping hard, and we’re here to help you make the most of your back-to-school shopping budget.