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Shopping for Clothes on a Budget


With back to school time right around the corner, you might be taking the first steps to determine your budget for the annual school clothes (and supplies) shopping extravaganza. Before the sales circulars arrive in the mail and your child begins to beg for the latest, greatest, must-have fashions, consider the following steps for ensuring that you’re staying within budget with your back to school needs:

Create (and Stick to!) a List

This tip applies to virtually all types of shopping trips–before you set foot out of the house, have a detailed list in your hand of everything you need to purchase while you’re out. This is a very effective tool when shopping with children because when those inevitable requests of “Can I have this? Can I have that?” come rolling in, you’ll be able to explain that it’s simply not on the list and won’t be purchased this time (this is also a great response for when the questioning turns to whiny renditions of “Whhhhyyyyy?!”). To take this idea one step further, involve your child in the creation of the list so you can easily remind him/her that you’ll only buy what’s written on it from the beginning.

Decide How Much You Can Spend

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people overlook the specifics when creating their back to school shopping budget. Take some time to actually assess your budget–do you have savings set aside for these purchases or will you have to take money out of the month’s income? Do you have enough to cover at least the basics (socks, underwear, uniforms)? Decide exactly how much you can spend and set that sum in stone.

Maximize Rewards and Discounts

Whenever you’re about to embark on a shopping trip, you should try to maximize any rewards, frequent buyer programs, and coupons. I like to do this by stacking rewards on top of flash sales, and I’ve been able to save plenty on clothes at stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Nordstrom Rack. Even if your coupons have expired, chances are you’ll be able to get the manager’s permission to still use them. I politely asked this once, and I received an additional 30% off!

Try Non-Retail Options

If you’re on a super tight budget this year or want to challenge yourself to save as much as possible, don’t forget that there are non-retail options you can utilize to fulfill your back to school needs. These include clothing swaps with family and friends, sites like Freecycle, and even community groups and garage sales. Especially if you’re shopping for young children who will grow out of the clothes quickly (or destroy them even faster), you shouldn’t feel obligated to spend a boatload on new clothes each and every year.

Stick to Only What’s Truly Needed

At the end of the day, your child doesn’t need to be dressed in the latest fashions in order to attend school and be a successful student. Work to instill good values in your child by modeling proper behavior about what’s really important at school: Attendance, grades, social interaction, and learning. Take the focus off the fashion and you may be pleasantly surprised with how your child begins to excel in school.

How do you save money on back to school clothes?

This post was written by Jen, a staff writer from The Happy Homeowner



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. One of the best way for me to save money on clothes is to buy those that I would be able to use for a long time, those that remain fashionable no matter what the trend is.

  2. I graduated high school 10 years ago….we used to get $100 each for school clothes. That had to buy us at least 3 jeans, 5 shirts, and a pair of shoes. We learned to be frugal early! Anything we wanted after that came out of our own pockets. My parents started this when we were in 4th grade, and the $100 budget never increased. We shopped at Ross and outlet malls a lot!

    • I love it! These types of learning experiences are invaluable–kudos to your parents for helping you learn these lessons 🙂

  3. I personally save money for it first, so I’ll know what i would have, then start making the list of the things I need. I just ask my parents to add some, for me be able buy the things that I also want. 🙂

  4. I think these are all great, realistic tips that anyone can follow. I particularly agree with the idea that you don’t have to stick with retail to get some great stuff. I have found some awesome finds at thrift stores and online!

    • Thanks, Tushar! The thrift store idea extends far beyond clothing, too–I’ve scored amazing deals on furniture and decor as well!

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  6. Great tips, Jen! When our kids were teens we’d buy them the basics in jeans, shirts, shoes, & coats. Anything beyond the basics they could use their own money to buy. It motivated them to have summer jobs and to help around the house for some extra money. They were a lot more careful with that money than if it had just come from Mom’s wallet!

  7. I love how you discuss this topic “Stick to Only What’s Truly Needed” in this post, Jen. Unfortunately, there are only a few people that realize that nowadays.

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