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Jul 092013
kids clothing

Most parents do not relish back-to-school clothes shopping. The crowds and the cost create a less-than-enjoyable experience.  I can’t fix the crowds but I can help with the cost.

Last year, I outfitted my two kids for the school year for less than $100 each. Considering many items easily sell for roughly $22 to $30 a piece, that’s a good deal. And yes, I did buy my children more than three items each. Here are six ways to buy kids’ school clothes without blowing your budget.

  1. Consignment shops/sales are great places for good-quality merchandise, especially high-end brands like Ralph Lauren and Hanna Anderson. Shops typically have criteria for accepting clothing, which helps ensure good quality. Bonus tip: Before you shop, clean out your kids’ old clothes and bring them in to get credit toward your purchase. Check here to find a list of consignment shops/sales in your area. The site provides a list of sales by state.
  2. Have an outlet mall within driving distance? Plan a trip. You’ll find in-season clothes at slashed prices. Many outlet malls give away a FREE coupon book for their stores or post coupons online. Learn what stores are in your mall and check online for coupons before you go. Most outlet stores accept coupons from their traditional counterparts. OshKosh B’Gosh is a popular outlet; one of its common deals is “buy 1 get 2 tops,” and that’s a great deal when you factor in the already-discounted outlet prices.
  3. Host a clothing swap. Contact friends from the neighborhood, church, school, moms clubs and more who have children in a range of ages. Set up a time to meet, bring outgrown clothes and start swapping. You may want to set up criteria for clothes to be clean, undamaged, etc.
  4. Remember thrift shops such as GoodwillSavers and Salvation Army. The merchandise rotates frequently, so one day you may find nothing, but the next day you might find a gold mine of adorable clothes. Plus, a bonus here is that these organizations donate money to nonprofit agencies in your community to help those in need.
  5. Don’t skip big name stores like Children’s Place, Gymboree, Crazy 8 and Kohl’s. These stores have such great sales that you should never pay full price at any of them. Sign up for their email lists so you get advance notice of sales. Look for discount codes online at RetailMeNot and Fat Wallet to boost your savings. If you have a Kohl’s credit card you already know about those 15%, 20% and 30% coupons cardholders receive in the mail.  But did you know the stores accept expired Kohl’s Cash? It’s not something that’s advertised, but I’ve spoken to customer service in multiple stores who’ve confirmed it.  You may want to call your Kohl’s ahead of time just to make sure.  If so, save up your Kohl’s Cash until you get the 30% coupons and you’ll make out like a bandit.
  6. Consider buying off-season for next year. Choices are sometimes limited, but many websites offer deals for an additional percentage off clearance prices (another good reason to sign up for those email newsletters). It sure is nice to look in the closet in the spring or next fall and have the start of a brand new wardrobe you picked up for next to nothing.

Heidi McIndoo

is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, author, and bargain hunter. She loves saving money and finding great deals, and can’t help but share the wealth when she does. She also loves all things food: baking, cooking, buying, eating, and more. She’s written about nutrition and healthy eating for Parents, Woman’s Day, All You, Prevention, and more. She enjoys teaching people how to eat both nutritiously and deliciously. And, in her two latest books she does just that — When to Eat What and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to 200-300-400 Calorie Meals. She lives with her family in the Metro Boston area.

  One Response to “6 ways to save on kids’ back-to-school clothes”

  1. I did NOT know that Kohls would accept expired Kohls Cash. That’s a great tip. I’m going to ask about it at my local store. We have friends who are highly-skilled Kohls shoppers and fortunately, their child is exactly one size ahead of ours, so we get lots of stylish hand-me-downs. That has saved us so much money. :) I usually use my 20% or 30% Kohls discount to get a pair of brand-name shoes at a decent price, then supplement with nice-but-not-expensive shoes from other stores.

    Buying out of season is a great tip. During Old Navy $1 Flip-Flop day, I happened to check the clearance racks and found several sweaters and long-sleeve tops that were marked down to $1 to $5! I might have gone a little crazy, but I left the store with a huge bag of clothes (and flip-flops, of course) for about $60.

    I don’t know if we will be able to apply the tip about outlet stores, since there are none very close to home, but we usually find good deals on new, name-brand clothes at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Ross Dress for Less, and Burlington Coat Factory.

    My philosophy about brands is that I’ll try to accommodate my middle-schooler by looking for one or two token items from *hot* brands on sale, then supplementing with lots of good quality clothing from less expensive brands. (Also, if I’m paying for a name or a logo, I want the name or logo to be emblazoned across the article of clothing! LOL)

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