Photo: Frugal Florida Mom

Buying new clothes for back to school can be daunting… emotionally and financially. Especially when you need to build a whole new uniform wardrobe from scratch for two kids. That’s where I was last year when we moved to Florida. I was initially anti-uniform, mostly because of the money. But I grew to love it.

Not only are there social benefits, there are also money saving benefits. Yes, there is the initial expense of starting the wardrobe. But after I tackled that, I bought very few other types of clothes for my kids for a whole year. And if you know where to look, school uniform pieces can be affordable.

Let’s start with the basic pieces you need. And that’s really determined by how many times a week you want to do laundry. And since laundry is the bane of my existence, I’d rather not do it more than once a week. So I set out to get enough pieces to get them through a week with a few variations.

That means 5 pairs of bottoms and 5 tops, plus a casual school t-shirt sold by the school that kids are usually allowed to wear on Fridays and other special days.

You will want to adjust this basic wardrobe based on:

» What you can afford

» What’s required/allowed at your school

» Your local climate

» What your kids like to wear. My daughter insists on skirts just about every day and I have to force her to wear shorts once in a while. So I buy mostly skirts. Your daughter may be different.

» Whether laundry is your favorite pastime

Now, how do you save the most money?

» Only buy what they need right now. I started buying shorts and short sleeved shirts for the hot temps in August and put off buying pants and long sleeve shirts for later in the fall when I could budget for more.

You’ll also see school uniform pieces go on clearance as you get deeper into the school year. But it might be difficult to find the sizes and st‌yles you need on the clearance rack.

» Don’t buy it all in one place. Shop around. You might find a good deal on shirts at one store and a better deal on shorts at another. Be loyal to quality and savings, not stores.

» Consider buying a few higher-end brands, if that’s important to you, for them to wear for school programs, picture day, etc. Then fill out the rest of the wardrobe for every day learning and play with more affordable brands and/or thrift and consignment store finds.

» Help a sister out. Join a Facebook group for moms in your area or your school community. Helpful moms will usually post good deals they find on clothes and supplies.

» Check with family and friends. If they have kids older than yours, they likely have clothes to hand down.

» Find out if your school has a uniform exchange program. You turn in uniform pieces that your kids have outgrown (that are good quality) and you get the same number of pre-owned pieces in return in the sizes you need.

» Shop during your state’s sales tax holiday. This year 16 states have a certain period of time when certain school related items are sales tax free, which can include clothing, shoes, backpacks, supplies and even computers.

But keep in mind, each state’s holiday covers different items and there is a lot of fine print. To find out the specifics for your state, Forbes magazine has a good list with links.

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