How to Save on Back to School Clothes

This is a Guest Post from reader Laurie Owens

Back to school time can mean having to spend big bucks on everything from clothing to shoes to books and school supplies. According to a Back-to-School survey done by BIGresarch the average family with K-12 grade students will spend $600 this season on items for back-to-school.  You don’t have to break the bank on back-to-school if you use a little creativity and some savvy shopping. Here are 10 tips to help you save money on the clothing your kids will need for school.

1. Take an Inventory
The best way to save money is to not spend it at all! Before you spend money on back-to-school clothing, take a look at what you already have at home. Save money and buy only what you need.  In many states shorts and capri pants can be worn well into October. Wait to purchase long pants. You will find that stores start to discount as the holiday season approaches. Or look to “pass down” clothing from one child to another. If you do need to purchase new items be sure to make a list of exactly what you need to avoid buying more than your kids really need.

2. Shop End of season sales
Shop stores at the end of season for deeply discounted items. July is when most stores start stocking their stores with winter items. From July-September you can find great deals on short sleeve shirts and shorts which can be worn well into the beginning of fall. Or use these sales as an opportunity to pick up spring/summer items for the following year.

3. Use Coupons and Rewards programs
You can save even more if you combine sale or clearance prices with coupons or in-store bonus programs like Gymbucks at Gymboree or J Bucks at Justice.  Instead of using your bucks on full price items, use them on sale or clearance items and multiply your savings. You can print retail store coupons at Coupon Cabin  or Retail Me Not. Or try key word search “coupons” with the store you like to shop. Visit websites of your favorite stores and sign up for their mailing list.

4. Shop Consignment
Kids grow out of clothing and shoes quickly. Consider outfitting your little ones with gently-used clothing from a local consignment store or seasonal consignment sale.  Buying from a consignment store is a great way to find great name-brand clothing at a fraction of regular retail prices. A consignment sale is different from a consignment store because it happens only a few times a year but gives parents a way to shop from tens of thousands of things from other families over the course of a few days! If you live in New Jersey, check out for information on sales in Edison and Flemington. If you live in another state visit one of the consignment sale (and store) directories like Consignment Mommies to find a store or event near you.

5. Start a Clothing Swap
If you have children you probably know many of other families with children close in age. Consider swapping clothing, shoes, coats and other children’s items with friends and neighbors or through a community group or church. If you are interested in learning more about setting up a swap check out this article from eHow. Facebook is another source to trade items. Post what you want or have to swap. Likely your friends or friends of friends have things to trade. An alternative to a local swap is to join a site like Swap Mammas where you can connect and swap items with families from different areas.

6. Buy Gently-Used Items Online
Craig’s List is a great resource to find new and gently used items. is a free online listing service. You can use their search feature to look for specific sizes, brands etc. Because Craig’s List is organized by location, you’re buying from people in your area and eliminating shipping fees. Or consider Ebay, a similar online vehicle. Parents can find gently-used and new items on Craigs List and Ebay. Read listings carefully and ask about things like quality and condition before making payment to avoid disappointment.

7. Garage Sales
Everyone knows garage sales are a great place find things for next to nothing. Children’s clothing is often offered for sale. They can be very hit-or-miss and time consuming.  If you find great stuff but in the wrong size, you can still take advantage of these great deals. Larger sizes can be purchased and held onto for a future season. Smaller sizes can be purchased and sold at a consignment sale ( to offset the money spent on things for you own family. When purchasing anything at a garage sale, be careful to inspect the clothing for stains, holes, wear etc. Most garage sales will not give you money back once you have made a purchase.

8. Shop Big Discount Stores
Stores like Marshalls or Burlington Coat Factory can save you big money on name-brand clothing. Many times you will find the EXACT same items in these stores for 1/3-1/4 less than department stores. Don’t forget to check out the clearance racks at these stores for even deeper discounts!

9. Save Money When Shopping Online
Shopping online versus a brick and mortar store can also bring savings.  But shipping costs can negate that savings. Getting a discount on your order or free shipping when you use special online coupons or promotional codes will save you some money. You will find coupon and free shipping codes on websites like Coupon Cabin or Retail Me Not or by searching the store name and a term like “free shipping code” or “coupon”. Some online retailers require a minimum purchase to get free shipping. One way to meet a minimum order, when you cannot meet it on your own, is to combine your order with a friend and share the discount!

10. Get What You Need for Free
What about getting clothing, shoes, coats etc. for free? What better way to save money than to not have to spend it at all! Networks like The Freecycle connect people who want to give away items with those looking for the same items. You can also post a “want ad” for specific things you need. You are usually expected to pick up your items in a timely manner. This is a great option if you are on a very limited income or have little to no money for back to school items. Check out Freecycle  to find a network near you.

Laurie Owens a married stay-at-home mother to three children ages 11, 9 and 7 and live in Flemington, NJ. She started Kidzsignments a seasonal children’s consignment sale in the spring of 2005 with 41 connsignors and is in the midst of planning their 15th and 16th events and have grown to over 450 consignors.  The Fall 2011 events are scheduled in Edison (Oct 6-8) and Flemington (Nov 17-19).  You can learn more by visiting Kidzsignments or “like” them on Facebook.

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  • Kate Walker

    If you’re in central NJ, I recommend Kid 2 Kid on Rt 22 in Greenbrook!

  • Laura

    I LOVE this consignment sale in Flemington! We buy at least 70% of my son’s- now 20 months- clothing, books, toys, & gear there. I have a 14 year old daughter & we go together to shop for her brother- it’s a new tradition 🙂

  • Marian

    There’s a big kids consignment at Brookdale College Sept. 27-Oct. 1.

  • YAY! Great post Laurie!!!! I vote consignment sales, of course 🙂