—Buy it used: There are plenty of “gently used” stores that specialize in children’s clothes, including school uniforms. “It’s our busiest time of the year,” said Mo Castro, owner of a Once Upon a Child store in Sacramento, who says some parents even shop early for Halloween costumes.
Consignment and used clothing stores are an incentive to clean out your kids’ closets. Bring in their outgrown clothes and shoes and you could receive cash or in-store credits.
Another option: Organize your own kids clothing swap. Invite a dozen friends with kids of similar ages. Ask each to bring 10 to 12 clean, good-condition clothing items for trading. Everything gets laid out by size; when it ends, you go home with a dozen new-to-you items — all at no cost.
Many schools and community groups organize back-to-school clothing swaps.
—Play it again: It’s not just clothes that can be bought secondhand. If your kid is enthused about signing up for band or orchestra or trying softball or golf for the first time, don’t rush out to buy an expensive cello or baseball bat.
Classified ads, Craigslist and Amazon.com, for instance, are good sources of used musical instruments and sports equipment. Before you commit to a pricey new instrument or sport that your kid might end up hating, consider buying it “almost-new.”
—Shop the sales: Even if stores are showing sweaters and other cold-weather wear, stock up now on end-of-season sales for shorts, tops and other summery clothes that can be worn into October. By then, all the autumn apparel that popped up in August will be headed for the clearance racks.
Spread out your school shopping over the next nine months, so kids don’t outgrow everything and you’re not forking out too much all at once.
—Coupons and comparisons: Whether they want the newest Nikes or the hottest cellphone, back-to-school shopping is a perfect chance to teach kids how to comparison shop, say finance experts.
Have them look up prices from three different outlets as a comparison. Especially with electronics, show them how to look at terms, fees, monthly charges, etc., that go beyond the initial price tag for that cellphone or laptop.
—Packin’ a lunch: Farley, who blogs on thrifty family life, says her 8-year-old son, James, always totes his own lunch, with things she knows he’ll eat, like peanut butter and crackers and a piece of fruit. What he doesn’t eat, however, is required to come home. “If he only takes a bite out of an apple, I’ll carve up the rest and put it into an apple crisp for dinner,” she said.
Every week, she makes a pan of six-ingredient granola bars, which the whole family eats. “They’re bigger, more nutritious and a fraction of the price (of store-bought bars),” said Farley, who has posted the recipe on her blog.
BY THE NUMBERS:
In an annual survey of U.S. families with K-12 children, most parents said they’re being cautious about back-to-school spending this year.
—80.5: Percentage of parents who say economic conditions will change their back-to-school shopping in some way.
—$634.78: Total amount the average family will spend on school clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics, down about 8.5 percent from 2012. Of that, families will spend $114.39 on shoes and $90.49 on school supplies.
—59.6: Percentage of parents who say their children influence at least half of their back-to-school purchases.
—36.6: Percentage of parents who will cut costs by doing more comparative shopping online.
—$30.13: Average amount of their own money that teens will chip in on small, extra school items.
SOURCE: National Retail Federation, July 2013 survey of 5,635 adults
©2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
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