Some kids dread the end of summer vacation while others look forward to the first day of school. But whether the thought of school bums them out or gears them up, one thing kids share is the desire to look good when they get there - and that can put a lot of monetary strain on an already stressed-out wallet.
If you're looking for some ways to make ends meet and have a happy camper on your hands, check out these tips for back-to-school shopping on a budget.
#1 - Make a Game Plan
It can be easy at the store to forget that your kid has a surplus of jeans and what their wardrobe really needs are a couple of pairs of nice-looking khakis, so it's a good idea to plan out a few priorities beforehand. That way you'll know where to steer them as you're sailing through a sea of clothing racks.
So open the closet doors and dresser drawers wide and start sorting items and evaluating what kind of shape they're in. Then count what's left and decide where you need to focus your shopping dollars.
#2 - When to Buy
It's hard to deny kids new outfits for the first day of school, but when it comes to additional clothes, you can try to convince them it's ok to hold off for a few weeks. After the big back-to-school season starts to simmer down, lots of stores feature great sales -- and kids might find there are some hot new fashions they would have missed out on if they hadn't seen what all the kids at school were wearing before they made their own choices.
Hit the circuit around mid to late September to get these sweet deals, but also considering changing your overall game plan. Instead of buying clothes for the new school year all in one go, consider spreading out your shopping throughout the year. Lots of stores have great clearance racks that can dive into deep discounts, so pick up items here and there and then present them all in August to an excited child.
#3 - Online Avenues
There are lots of places to find clothes online -- and not just at store Web sites. Don't think you're alone in trying to find new or gently used back-to-school clothes on the cheap. There are plenty of other moms out there going through the same situation, so why not help each other out? Craigslist and eBay are the perfect places for moms to meet up and make online clothing swaps and sales. Whether you're looking to buy individual items or a whole heap of clothes for one low price, chances are good you'll find some of the items on your list pretty quick. If you're going to be looking through store Web sites, a simple internet search can tell you if any online coupons are up for grabs. Just google the name of the store and the word coupon to help you cover all the bases.
#4 - Local Locations
If virtual shopping's not for you, why not try out the physical equivalent? There are any number of stores that offer big discounts, and, if you go often enough, it's completely possible you'll even stumble across some of the name brands on your kid's wish list.
Try thrift stores, outlet malls and other discount retailers to score the best deals on lots of new and resale clothes. Plus, some of these stores offer bag days and you can really get a great haul for a small chunk of change if you hit up one of them.
#5 - Show Me the Money
Let's face it. Everybody out there -- before you were a parent you were somebody's kid. And when it came to spending their buck, you were all for it. Nothing was too good for you.
Once the tables have turned however, it's a whole other story. As parents, you do what you can for your kids -- maybe spring for one pair of designer jeans or a fancier backpack than usual -- but for the most part parenting is about saying no; a lot. One way you can grease the wheels and spare yourself from a few minutes of high-pitched whining is to say: Well, I'll pitch in X amount of dollars, and if you want that fancy Y over there, you can use your allowance to make up the difference.
Some kids will jump on it -- their money's in their hands faster than you can blink. Other kids will turn into unbelievable tightwads -- they'll glare at you and solemnly say no dice. Whichever kind of kid you've got, congratulations. You've probably distracted them and you've saved yourself some cash.