We can't really blame the back-to-school bank drain on the classes themselves. Sure, the fees for academic and athletic supplies sting, but the real pain is, ahem, of a much more fashionable nature. If the cost to clothe your child is reaching sky-high proportions (we know ours is), it's time to take control of back-to-school spending. Here's how to get ahead of the game.
First, get off the designer track. Instead of heading to trendy (and pricey) teen stores, shop for designer brands at overstock stores like TJ Maxx or Marshall's. You can score the same trendy names for about half the price, sometimes less. You can browse discount designer racks online, too, at O.co, RueLaLa.com, HauteLook.com or BlueFly.com.
If you'd really like to slash your budget, stalk local resale shops. Plato's Closet, for example, has gently used name-brand clothes and accessories at deep discounts. Teens -- who rarely seem to wear the same ensemble more than once -- turn in their clothes at the store for cash or store credit, and other teens can then buy the gently used items. The key to great finds is frequenting the store on a regular basis. You'll develop an eye for price, get to know their inventory and when you see a real steal, you'll be able to snap it up.
Finding stylish back-to-school clothes at yard sales can be hit-and-miss. However, you can increase your odds of finding trendy kids' clothes by targeting upscale neighborhoods with young families. Read Craigslist.com or the classified ads in your local newspaper and map out the sales. In addition, save some cash for annual or semi-annual consignment sales, like Just Between Friends. These large-scale, two- or three-day events feature clothing and other items for a variety of ages, from baby to teenager.
Alternatively, you could host a swap party and exchange clothing with other attendees. The key is to extend the invitations strategically. Be sure to invite people who have children the same age (or a bit older) than yours, and who tend to wear the brand names you prefer. If you are hosting a swap party for your teen, invite other teenagers with similar styles and sizes. A swap party can work for any number of needs, from school uniforms to homecoming dresses.
Want to save even more money? On the next page, we'll share more tips to make you a back-to-school bargain master.