10 Money Saving Tips for Back-to-School Shopping!

As a family we live a fairly frugal life. We eat at home more often than we eat at a restaurant, we stick to a budget and strive to pay down consumer debt, and lastly we ALWAYS shop on the clearance racks. Contrary to many opinions, you can find stylish and cheap clothes on the clearance rack, if you plan ahead!

Last year families with school-aged children spent an average of $630.36 on back to school shopping per child. That’s more than we spend on Christmas gifts each year! What if I told you we spend $250 per child on back-to-school shopping? That $250 budget accounts for clothes, shoes, supplies and everything needed for back-to-school! How I do it, clearance.

First, you should know I buy 90% name brand clothes for our kids. I buy them good shoes that will last until at least Christmas. Lastly, I don’t buy what we don’t need.

10 Tips to Save Money on Back to School!

Here are 10 money saving tips for back-to-school shopping!

  1. Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need
    • Go through last year’s clothes and see if there is anything that still fits and is in good condition. Most of the time you can make last year’s outfit new again with accessories.
  2. Make a List
    • Start with a list of what you do need to buy. Shopping without a list will lead to buying too much, or too little.
  3. Start Early
    • June and July is a perfect time to start clearance shopping. Spring styles are moving out of stores, making way for in-season Summer clothes. I start at the expensive stores and get the stables; jeans, hoodies, flannels, etc. These are going to be the building blocks to your child’s outfits and will probably be worn 2-3 times before being washed. Spend a little more on these pieces and get good quality.
    • I usually try to pick up a tank top or two, as well as a pair of shorts for those couple weeks leading up to fall. I can generally find a cute summer outfit or two on clearance in July.
    • Allowing extra time also lets me look for Buy 1 Get 1 deals. I can score free shoes at this time as well as socks, underwear and more. Meijer has Buy 1 Get 1 sales each week, and I can usually get several great deals.
  4. Buy Mix and Match Outfits
    • The key to not spending too much on clothes this school year is buy items that can be mixed and matched.
    • Pieces such as a shirt that can be worn with jeans, a skirt, and layered with a sweater can make 6 different outfits: Shirt + Skirt + Flats, Shirt + Skirt + Leggings + Boots, Shirt + Jeans + Flats, Shirt + + Jeans + Sweater + Boots
    • This works for boys as well. Jeans + Tee one day, next week try Jeans + Tee + Flannel over top.
  1. Buy the “Throw Away Fashion” Cheap
    • To me “Throw Away Fashion” is the printed tops with a character, or the tie-dye shirt everyone is wearing to school. These are the pieces that are popular today, but in a month they won’t be cool. I usually buy these at big box stores such as Target. They are cheap enough to “throw away” after a month, but your child gets to wear the latest trend. I would shoot for only 1-2 pieces in your back to school shopping.
  2. Think Longer Than Just Fall
    • When buying clothes for back to school I am not only buying things for the month of September and October, I plan for all of fall and into winter. I try to stretch clothing by buying layer pieces and buying the next size up. Sure, the first week or two of school they might be a little baggy, but kids grow quickly! Plan ahead and buy the next size to ensure they get the length needed.
  3. Buy Quality Shoes
    • We buy shoes three times a year. I buy shoes at the start of school, for basketball season, and again in late spring. In order to get the length out of a pair of shoes, you need to buy good quality. I used to buy shoes from Target when our babies were small, now that their feet aren’t growing as quickly I buy named brand such as Nike, Adidas and Sketchers. These shoes don’t wear out as quickly, allowing me to buy fewer times throughout the year.
  4. Buy Quality Backpacks
    • When my nephew was in elementary school my sister in law gave me a great tip on backpacks. She said she bought three backpacks for her son during Kindergarten. Instead of buying a good quality backpack, they bought a character backpack from Meijer. The backpack was $20 and she ended up buying three of them… that’s $60 in one year for backpacks! Instead of buying three lower quality backpacks we decided to invest in nice backpacks for our kids. Sure, the upfront cost is $60 for one, however they have lasted two years and are still going strong! LL Bean repairs their backpacks and they carry a warranty. If they get destroyed, send it in for a replacement or to be fixed!
  5. School Supplies
    • We get off easy on this one… our school has a program where you pay $15 at the beginning of school for all of your supplies. We have to buy a backpack and any fancy supplies our kids want, but the basic school supplies are already taken care of. Ask your school if they have this program, or suggest it!
  6. Haircuts
    • Most people don’t think about budgeting in a hair cut before the start of school, however we always get our kids fresh new cuts before the first day. I wait for a $5 hair cut coupon from Great Clips, which usually comes out right before school starts. This is a great way to get a fashionable cut for cheap.


Do you spend too much on back to school shopping? What are your tips on saving?


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