August brings the back-to-school clothes shopping season. Is it possible to get children back to school and still have money left? A few simple steps will save money even if children have outgrown everything over the summer. Begin by having kids sort their clothes into three piles:
- Clothes that still fit,
- Clothes that don’t fit, and
- Clothes with a problem.
Put clothes that fit back into closets and drawers. Determine if outgrown clothes will fit another child and, if so, put them with that child’s clothes. Otherwise, you may be able to find a consignment sale where you can sell those items and add the funds to your back-to-school clothing budget. Clothes with problems should be cleaned, repaired, or thrown away if they can’t be salvaged.
Arrange the clothes for each child by categories, e.g. tops, bottoms, uniforms, jackets, dresses. Notice where there are gaps in the wardrobe, such as a need for more khaki uniform pants or a blue shirt to wear with a favorite pair of shorts. Create a shopping list for each child, arranging items in order of priority. Determine how much money you can budget for fall/winter clothing and resolve to stay within that budget. Remember to allow for winter boots and coats in the budget: August is hot, but kids will be needing winter items soon enough in most areas.
If you have basic sewing skills, you can quickly make basic items like elastic waist skirts, shorts, jumpers, and T-shirts. Get on the mailing list for your local fabric stores and take advantage of sales and coupons to get patterns and fabric at low prices. Cutting and sewing several items from the same basic pattern enables you to work quickly and effectively. Also use that sewing machine to lengthen short skirts from last season with a wide band at the hem, a tulle ruffle (seen on ready-to-wear dresses this year) or some wide decorative braid. Pants that still fit at the waist can be turned into capris or shorts.
Shopping should begin at consignment sales and resale shops. Many churches hold weekend consignment sales several times a year. Thrift stores sometimes have treasures hidden in the midst of the well-worn clothes on the children’s racks. Check online sources as well. Join email notification lists to be sure you know about special sales and receive coupon codes. Many online stores will offer free shipping with a minimum purchase, helping them compete with your local stores.
Finally, finish off the shopping lists at discount stores and department stores. Check sales flyers first to compare prices, then shop from your lists. Do not be distracted by sales on items you do not need. Shop the list and stay within budget. Work from top priorities first, and get as far on your lists as you can before reaching your budget limit. Keep your lists and continue to acquire items as additional cash becomes available during the school year.