Managing Your Back-to-School Clothes Budget

Plan ahead and compare bank accounts to save big on back-to-school clothes shopping

Back-to-school season runs from August to September for most families, which means buying new supplies, new backpacks and new clothes. According to the Huffington Post, the average cost of back-to-school clothes for one child in 2013 was $634.78, which is why many people try to plan a back-to-school clothes budget in advance. Fortunately, putting together a savings strategy long before back-to-school sales hit can help you save money while keeping your kids fashion-forward. Open a new bank account and start making regular contributions early in the year. Then, check out some ways to save on your back-to-school clothes budget, including a checklist and smart shopping tips.

Create a back-to-school checklist

Every child's needs are different, which is why it's a good idea to create personalized lists for back-to-school clothes shopping. Parents with children in private school may have specific uniform requirements, but that can make back-to-school clothes shopping even easier. In general, most school-aged kids need all or at least some of the following items each year:

  • Socks.
  • Underwear.
  • Gym shoes.
  • Casual shoes.
  • Dress shoes.
  • Jeans.
  • Khakis or dress slacks.
  • Shorts and/or skirts.
  • T-shirts.
  • Sweaters.
  • Sweatshirts.
  • Winter boots.
  • Winter coat.
  • Hats, scarves and gloves.

Take inventory and create a back-to-school clothes budget before going shopping

Before you visit stores or websites, take a moment to "shop the closet." Take stock of the clothes your child already has, what they may be missing and what may need to be replaced now or later in the year as they grow. Make a list of what you'll need, starting with our back-to-school checklist above, so you're better prepared to create a budget.

Once you know what clothing items you need, examine your budget to see how much you can spend. Ideally, you'll have opened a new bank account earlier in the year and will have funds designated for your shopping excursions.

Consider these money-saving tips for back-to-school clothes shopping

If you're shopping for back-to-school clothes on a budget, these suggestions may help you make the most of your budget.

  • Get your kids involved: Back-to-school clothes shopping presents a great opportunity to teach your kids about money management. When putting together your back-to-school clothes budget, consider including your child in the process. Show them the total amount of money you can spend on clothes and where the rest of your monthly funds go so your son or daughter understands why you're setting the limit at $300 instead of $600. This may make it easier to shop with them as they may be more flexible about wants vs. needs - and may even be excited about helping you hunt for bargains.
  • Be a savvy shopper: Some families save on back-to-school costs by picking up pieces throughout the year, while others shop after back-to-school sales events and pick up items on clearance. In addition to these strategies, consider visiting several different stores in the same chain - clearance racks tend to vary from store to store, so you could end up finding great pieces at a great price by shopping at an alternate location.
  • Get deep discounts with gently-used gear: Online marketplaces, thrift stores and consignment shops are great places to find like-new clothing for kids without paying retail prices. You can also use these outlets as a means of selling outfits your children have outgrown; any money you make can be used to purchase new clothing or set aside in your designated bank account for next year's back-to-school clothes shopping trip.
  • Reuse and repair to get clothes for free: Another way to find gently-used clothes is by hosting a clothing swap party with friends and family. Children can outgrow their clothes quickly, and exchanging outfits is a great way for families to save money. Plus, some children are more receptive to hand-me-downs from friends than their older siblings. If you're handy with a sewing machine, you can also repair or alter pieces to put a new twist on your child's existing wardrobe.
  • Track your spending: When you move from store to store, the separate receipts make it easy to forget the total amount expended. As a result, you spend more on back-to-school clothes than you planned. Use mobile banking to check your balance and track your expenditures before you start shopping at the next store. Also, pay with debit and avoid using credit cards as much as possible so that you can stay within your budget.
  • Buy clothes out of season if possible: You may be able to find good deals on winter coats during the summer months, while winter may be a prime time to purchase T-shirts at a discount. If you decide to purchase in advance, you may want to consider buying a slightly larger size to accommodate for growth spurts.

Save for back-to-school clothes shopping with a Citizens Bank checking account

While it can be challenging to make a back-to-school clothes checklist in advance, knowing your budget early in the year will help you set a goal for the savings in your new bank account. Citizens Bank offers a number of accounts that can help you budget and save for back-to-school clothes shopping. Compare bank accounts to find the one with the features and benefits that work best for your family, then start setting aside funds today. For more information about personal banking and checking options from Citizens Bank, contact a customer service representative.


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