Lifestyle,  parenting

Back 2 School Prep: Clothes Shopping

School is right around the corner!  And I want to help get you “back to school cool” with this new Back 2 School Prep series.  In this first installment, we are going to tackle clothes shopping.  Preparing for back to school is often a stressful time of the year; budgets get blown with back to school shopping, meltdowns ensue, and everyone is spent by the end of the first hour.

But this does not have to be the case!  With a little bit of preparation and battle plan, you can rock back to school clothes shopping like a boss.



Know Before You Go

Before you set out on any shopping adventures, know what your child has in his or her current wardrobe that can carry over to the next school year.

I suggest you go through everything.

Closets…drawers…even wash up the dirty clothes!  You want to make sure you KNOW what clothes your child has.  A great way to help control this [potential] mess, is to make three piles as you sort: keep, donate, sale.

(And please, for all that is holy….do this WITH your child.  I couldn’t tell you how many meltdowns have happened in our home because a shirt was gotten rid of without a child’s prior knowledge, and even though the said shirt hadn’t fit for 6 months or better. *sigh*  Learn from my mistakes.  It will save your sanity.  Promise.)



Your keep pile is, of course, items that currently fit your child.  But it should also include items that were maybe bought a little big.  These could be current season items or next season.  You really never know when a kid will grow.

(Does anyone else feel like their kids just shoot up overnight????)

Important!  Ask before you keep.  If you haven’t seen your child wear a particular shirt or bottom in a while and you know it fits, ask if he or she still likes the item and intends on wearing it.  There is no sense in keeping clothes that will never get worn.

Items that are too small, or extremely too big – that could possibly be off trend before your child gets to wear it – will go in the sale pile.  Make sure these items are free from stains and heavy wear.  This will maximize the amount you are able to get back when selling these items, whether it’s via a consignment store, yard sale, Facebook sale group, etc..  And I also like to double check with my child to make sure she will indeed wear.

Lastly, the donate pile should include items that do not fall into the other two categories.

When you are finished sorting, bag/box sale and donation items and clearly mark the boxes.  (You don’t want to get these mixed up. 😉 )  Set these out of the room and begin to put back into the closet and drawers the items you and your child have chosen to keep.  As you load back up, make a physical list of the items your child needs for the first few months of school.



Do you have a clothes shopping budget?  If so, know what it is before you even step foot in a store or browse the internet or store circulars.  A budget doesn’t change, but sales do.  There is no reason to put your family in financial stress over back to school shopping.  So take that list of “need” items you made while going through the closet/drawers and set a realistic budget of what you want to spend for this year’s back to school clothes.

You want to be realistic with your budget but don’t feel like you have to stretch it farther than you are able.  Like I said, sales change, the budget doesn’t.  If that shirt that is screaming little Joey’s name, is just out of reach, no worries.  I’m sure the price will drop down within a few weeks.  You can always go back and grab it next paycheck.


Consignment Stores

Consignment stores – not to be confused with thrift stores – are a good place to find gently worn, on-trend items.  And just like major retailers, many of these small shops will run back to school sales.  So keep an eye out for promotions.

Oh, and remember that box of sale items you gathered?  Some consignment stores will even give you a higher value for items you sell to them if you take store credit instead of cash.  This is BIG for your budget.  Not only are you making money, you are kind of getting clothes for free.  So make sure this is your first stop for back to school shopping.

I will say, if you are open to this option, I suggest browsing the aisles of the store while your buy is being processed.  There is no sense in accepting store credit if you don’t see anything that you need on your list.



Shop Sales

Don’t go into sales blind.  That’s a good way to blow your budget.  Pre-plan by viewing weekly ads ahead of time for the shops you want to visit.  Retailers love to advertise for the “best price of the season”.  To make sure you are truly getting a deal, compare the sale price to the original price.  Or, if it’s a retailer that rarely sells at the ticketed price, try to think back to prices you’ve seen the same item listed for.  Sometimes, the “best price of the season” really isn’t all that great.  And again, refer back to your list of “needs” as you shop.


Clearance Racks

I love shopping clearance racks!  Not only does it help stretch the dollar, clearance racks are great for current weather items.  This is perfect for those of us that live in climates that see little change in the seasons.

For example, we live in the deep south.  Why in the heck would my kid want to wear blue jeans and long sleeves going back to school in August?  Oh, because that’s what stores market as the back to school clothes?

Nope!  Not happening!  We’re lucky if we need long pants and long sleeves by Thanksgiving.  So there is no reason why we should be spending our shopping budget on these items right now.  Just wait…the sales will roll back around on these items and often times at a better price.



Warehouse Stores

i.e. Sam’s Club & Costco

If you have a membership to a big box warehouse store, don’t forget to check the middle aisles for back to school clothes.  These stores often get big name clothing brands at less than half the price of traditional retailers.

I’ve found this to be the best place to purchase athletic-ware and, sometimes, shorts and jeans.  Socks are a must here as well.  The warehouse size packs of socks are the best bang for your buck.  And if you get lucky, you can even find great deals on shoes.


Tax-Free Weekend

You may or may not have heard about tax-free weekend.  This is a state government designated weekend where back to school items can be purchased with no additional taxes or, at least, a reduction of tax.  The rules on eligible items and the tax discount vary from state to state.  And not every state participates, so make sure you check with your state – and county – to see if they participate.  (If you google search, make sure you get info from a .gov website to guarantee authenticity.)

BUT….if your state does have a tax-free weekend, this is a great time to compound savings by shopping sales on this special weekend.

Or maybe your state doesn’t offer a tax-free weekend but a neighboring state does.  Do the math and see if it’s worth your time and money to make the trip to shop their weekend.

And regardless of where you go, don’t forget that list when you head out.


Child On Board

This is a duesy, folks….if you are going school shopping, take your child!  I know it can sometimes make for a stressful day, but dragging your kiddo along is worth it in the end.  Trust me.  Would you rather go shopping alone for your child’s back to school apparel and hope to goodness he or she will wear what you pick out?  Or, would you rather take a little extra time and let him or her pick out their own clothes that you KNOW he or she will wear?

For me, it’s a no-brainer.  I’m dragging mine, kicking and screaming, out the door with me on shopping day.

Just kidding….she loves to go shopping with me…most of the time.

So no kicking.  No screaming.

Especially if I promise a trip to Starbucks.  (Girl after my own heart, I know.)



Okay, let’s recap:

  • know what you need

  • know your budget

  • utilize consignment stores

  • shop sales

  • scour clearance racks

  • don’t forget the warehouse stores

  • shop tax-free

  • and shop with your child


So are you ready?  Are you ready to rock back to school like a boss?

I’d love to know how back to school shopping turns out for you!  Let me know in the comments.

Do you have any extra tips?  Please share with us!  We all could use a little extra help in keeping our sanity this time of year.

And make sure you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss what’s next in our Back 2 School Prep Series.


  • Tina

    Valuable tips! I remember those days of getting the kids ready for school! I especially like your tip about cleaning out the closets and getting rid of stuff before you begin shopping.

  • Kat

    I feel like setting a budget is the key with back to school clothing shopping! Shopping in the right places helps stick to that budget!

  • Jennifer

    This is a great list to get started with back to school, and successfully create a good school wardrobe.

  • T.M. Brown

    GREAT post! I love how you broke that all down. I wholeheartedly agree with the going through the closet WITH your child(ren) present ~ asking before you place it on the wrong pile. (gulp). We would take one Saturday and go through each closet with each of our three boys to find out what fit, what they wouldn’t wear, what had holes and what had to be packed up for the next brother in line when they reached that size. Tedious project, but soooo worth it when completed.

  • Candi

    Very well written and organized for any parent who needs to tackle the school clothes shopping project!

  • Ashley Reese

    These are all great tips! I agree that it’s important to donate old clothes that no longer fit before you go shopping!

  • Deanna

    Great tips, very helpful. I hate to think of back to school just yet, but it’s coming no doubt.

  • Erin

    Although back to school doesn’t quite apply to me quite yet, I shop in consignment stores and the clearance rack too for my toddler. It’s definitely a great way to go when they outgrow stuff so fast.

  • Christa

    Such a great list, especially when you’re shopping for multiple kids. It can be overwhelming and easily get out of control.

  • Ina @ Crafty For Home

    I love sale, clearance, discount and similar things. But with the back to school list like almost a whole book if I write it done (lol, kidding) sometime I was thinking do the kids need 4 dozen of pencils? lol

  • Pam

    Very good advice. Another thing we do is wait until the first weekend after school starts – that way the kids have a better idea of what they want – especially if they are moving to a new school.

  • Samantha

    School starts here in less than 2 weeks. I love your ideas on saving money and sticking to the list.

  • Ruth Iaela-Pukahi

    Teachers go back to school next week and the following week kids go back to school! I’ve got most of our school stuff at the Navy exchange thanks to a friend who can go there. No tax at military stores cause we don’t have no tax days in Hawaii, and a trip to our nearest state, I wish. lol. I also haven’t found any consignment stores for kids in Hawaii, so if anyone knows, please share! Great tips though! I think I’ve already spent close to $500 for 4 kids to go back to school, this includes school fees, yearbooks, etc and only one child really needed clothes! 😛

  • Ili

    These are really great tips. I always struggle when it comes to back to school shopping. I don’t care to shop so I try to rush through it and end up going way over budget so these are great tips so that I can avoid that this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow by Email