Back-to-school shopping can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Not only is clothing one of the biggest expenses parents have to prepare for as they send their kids back to school, but it can be difficult to manage kids’ clothing preferences. Here are my tips to saving money and saving sanity this fall.

Empty out the closet: Luckily kids grow like weeds, so it makes this process fairly easy—and quite necessary. Make the process of getting rid of old or unwanted items fun by having your kids join you in the process of purging by sharing memories of when an item was worn. Consider a few things when going through their closet: Help your kids say good-bye to clothing and shoes that no longer fit them, and assess whether or not other items are ones they still enjoy and plan to wear again.  As they grow they get regular opportunities to revisit their st‌yle and interest. For those items to get rid of, make sure to give them a fresh wash and take them to your nearest children’s resale shop to earn money for trade or to put toward a brand-new item.

Make a list of what’s needed:  Again, consider a few things.  First start with a list of essentials for fall and winter clothing and shoes.  This may include things like a raincoat, rain boots, a winter coat, everyday school shoes, athletic shoes, basic pants, shirts, dresses, socks and underwear.  Then visit the extra things they may want: Dress-up clothing for recitals, school functions or celebratory events. Have an idea of how many pants, jeans, leggings, skirts, dresses and shirts you will need for your kids. Some kids may be able to wear a pair of pants a few times before they need to be washed, and therefore maybe only need a few pairs to get to the next size.  My son is very hard on his clothing and needs a pair of pants for every school day, as his other pairs are either being washed or mended. 

Set a budget: When setting the budget, again it’s good to have a list of essentials as your main priority, such as daily clothes, shoes and rainwear.  All families will have an idea of their own budget amount, which may be visited seasonally in order to get things that fit for each season and spread out cost.  However, keep in mind when you and your kiddo are cruising the resale shops that it’s easy to find many things that you both will love as they are one-of-a-kind, unique and affordable.  By shopping children’s resale, parents can get nearly all of their items for half the cost or less, so you can get even more of your essentials while still keeping your budget low.

Best time to go:  Most resale shops put new items on the floor daily. Stopping in regularly increases your chances of finding those things your kids need.  In order to get all of your back-to-school shopping item needs met it’s important to start early.  Score a great deal on rain boots and a raincoat in the summer, or even the prior spring.  Take 30 to 60 minutes every week to cruise through your favorite resale shops to get those essentials.  You may have a better chance of finding their winter coats and rainwear in September, when those items are more readily available.

Many shops also have end-of-winter and end-of-summer sales, which can be a great time to get the next size or two up for the following year; you will see huge savings, especially on winter coats, rainwear and snow gear.  If you like to avoid the crowds, then Sundays and earlier weekdays are ideal for shopping. 

What to buy new vs used:  Kids grow fast, so getting as much of their essentials as possible at resale shops is ideal for the pocket book. However, if you aren’t able to find something you need and you need it right away, then going new is often necessary.  Many children’s resale shops are selective in their quality and brand so finding used back-to-school clothing and shoes is worth every penny.  However, as children get older (typically 10 and up), it can become more difficult to find those items on a time crunch.  Most shops will have the clothing you need, but if you only have a couple days to shop, it may be hard to find the shoes and coats you’re looking for. Consider buying a brand-new good pair of shoes and a solid warm and water-proof coat; though they might be the most expensive items on your list, consider how often your kids will wear them to make you feel better about your investment. Many children’s resale shops do carry items up to age 12 or 14 so be sure to inquire about your shop’s available sizes and take advantage of these sections, as they are less shopped and can have really great items.

Best of luck to you and your kids this back-to-school season!