According to the National Retail Federation’s Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies, and electronics. Meanwhile, a survey by Parenting.com, Women & Co, and Citibank found that parents spend an average of $131 on back-to-school clothing alone.
You may have the resources to splurge with $131 once in a while – until you factor in multiple kids and their impressive ability to outgrow everything within a month. Or maybe you just want to splurge on the little fashionistas in your life who require pea coats and light-up shoes to start trending the charts in preschool.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help prevent you from overspending on kids clothes while still finding fun and fashionable looks you and your kids will love. Here are eight ways to start your on-budget shopping spree.
1. Kick Back and Shop Online
There’s no need to battle the mall when you’ve got a tablet or laptop waiting for you with a glass of wine nearby. Put the kids to bed and start price comparing online to find all the ridiculously adorable kids’ clothing you’re secretly addicted to.
Amazon has great deals on just about everything, including kids’ clothes, but so do its brick-and-mortar competitors. For example, you can buy kids’ clothing directly from Target, Walmart, and Costco alike. Look for free shipping options to keep your costs down, and hold onto your receipts in case you see a flash sale pop up. You can also place orders and pick up directly from the store if you can’t wait to get your hands on your latest finds.
2. Hit Consignment Sales
Consignment sales are now hot-ticket events where moms battle it out over gently-used Boden and Crewcuts hand-me-downs. The thrill of the bargain hunt is as exciting as stocking your children’s wardrobe on the cheap. Come ready to shop with oversized bags to snatch up coveted fashions and complementary accessories. Keep an eye out for clothing for upcoming seasons and stock up for the entire year.
Consignment sales are also a great place to find coats and boots from brands like Patagonia and North Face. And if you’re so inclined, you can resell your finds at next year’s consignment sale and hope to break even, then use the cash to supply your next wardrobe haul.
3. Price Comparing is Where It’s App
All self-respecting frugal moms use multiple apps to ensure they’re getting the best possible price on their wardrobe wish list every time they leave the house. Avoid app fatigue and start with Paribus. The app takes a look at your receipts in your email inbox, then figures out if the online stores you shopped at guarantee a refund if you find the item somewhere else at a lower price. Paribus takes it a step further and actually helps get that money back into your bank account so you can spend it somewhere else.
Your next line of app defense is the WikiBuy app to tell you if there’s a cheaper priced item on Amazon before you hit “Buy.”
Even big-name retailers like Target are getting in on the branded app game with Cartwheel. Look for limited-time deals, and save on everything from clothing to shoes and plenty of other coveted items you didn’t know you couldn’t live without. But fair warning: it gets addictive to start scanning prices all over the store to lock in your savings. You’ll feel like an undercover Target employee before the day is done.
4. Make a Date with the Clearance Section
Dig in and pull out forgotten corduroy pants from a quickly-fading winter season, and stock up for next year. Remember that retailers also offer clearance items online with limited availability and last-minute sales. But a word of warning: not everything on clearance is actually that great of a deal, and it’s sometimes just a way for retailers to offset extra inventory. Do a quick price comparison online before buying to see if that sale is as good as it looks.
5. Buy Secondhand
Everyone loves a good deal on a totally awesome, beloved wardrobe find like jewel-encrusted baby jeans and fuzzy jackets. But there are more places to find secondhand deals than at garage sales, consignment pop-ups, and thrift stores.
It’s also possible to shop secondhand right online with sites like Amazon, where individual sellers are also competing for your wallet’s attention. You’ll see multiple sellers’ offers right below the sale price of the item you’re looking at, and some even offer free Prime shipping. Or you can shop the world’s largest consignment sale with Swap. The site carries thousands of brands for men, women, and children, ranging from adorable baby dresses, to gear like baby bedding – with lightning-fast turnaround.
6. Organize a Clothing Swap
There are plenty of other parents in your neighborhood and preschool drop-off line that are dying to get rid of their old stuff and pick up new things to cycle through their household. Turn frugal shopping into an inspired community event by organizing a clothing swap. Open up your home, or just meet in the park with picnic blankets ready to spread out your goods and start swapping.
But your swaps don’t have to be outfit-for-outfit. Offer more items for a prime jacket or dress that would be perfect for your toddler. Keep your eye on the prize. Get rid of everything you don’t need and pass it on to someone who does, all while picking up a few great finds.
7. Shop Off Season
Shopping year-round can actually save you money on your kids’ clothing instead of prompting you to overspend. Start by working out a careful annual budget for all your family’s essential clothing needs, and then figure out needed inventory, from play shirts to dress clothes. It’s also wise to leave some breathing room to replace torn outfits or splurge on an unexpected party or holiday outfit.
Keep your clothing list handy as you hit the last-minute sales, overstock surplus, and coveted off-season discounted merchandise. Look for classic pieces and outfits that won’t immediately go out of style, and layer with fashionable finds from your online shopping hunts and clothing swaps. Soon, you’ll have an entire year’s worth of clothing stocked away in your storage bins and ready to go.
8. Shop on Facebook
Most of us do a lot on Facebook, from consuming cute kids and puppies, to arguing over current affairs – so why not shop, too? Shopify teamed up with Facebook to allow users to open up shops right from their Facebook pages. But there are also Facebook groups devoted to selling used baby clothes and unused products at a discount.
Roll up your sleeves, and do a search in your area for Baby/Toddler Swaps right on Facebook. These groups open up their virtual doors so you can sell all your unwanted stuff and earn enough money to buy someone else’s unwanted stuff. It’s a win-win for everybody! Another great place to look for frugal finds is Facebook Yard Sales where people are selling everything from clothes to baby gear.
Buying kids’ clothes doesn’t have to be a tedious chore or break the bank. Sometimes being forced to stay frugal opens up new, creative possibilities you never would have considered before. And it just may inspire you to start clearing out your own junk to make room for your latest finds.
How do you frugally shop for your kids? And how do you stay sane while doing it? Let us know by leaving a comment below: