Among all the back-to-school essentials extracting money from parents’ pocketbooks, clothing and accessories are the most demanding. According to the National Retail Federation, 95 percent of surveyed parents will spend over $230 on apparel this year, plus another $114 on shoes.
Since this budget doesn’t include supplies and other school essentials, consider these tips to save on your kids’ back-to-school threads.
1. Buy second-hand at local kids’ consignment shops or online at sites like thredUP and Moxie Jean. Post your child’s outgrown clothes for sale and use the credit you earn to help offset other back-to-school costs.
2. Host a kid’s-only clothing swap with other parents in the community. A little pre-organization will go a long way, so follow these tips for hosting a successful swap.
3. Take advantage of end-of-season sales to prepare in advance for spring. You can find deep discounts on warm-weather clothes through Labor Day, plus garments like tank tops and light sweaters are great for layering. Beach bags double as totes for teen girls, and discounted sandals and shorts will come in handy during the second-half of the school year.
4. Buy discount gift cards from GiftCardGranny.com for instant savings to JCPenney (20 percent), Old Navy (5 percent), The Children’s Place (15 percent) and more. Use these cards in conjunction with retailer coupons and promotions for additional savings.
5. Be patient. Hold off on buying fall essentials until late September or October, when retailers offer bigger markdowns to make room for holiday merchandise. Pick up a few back-to-school items now to get your kids through the first few weeks, but buy the bulk of their fall and winter clothing later in the season.
6. Sign up for retailer newsletters to stay on top of promotions and get coupons delivered directly to your inbox. For instance, first-time Old Navy email subscribers will get a $10 coupon good for in-store or online purchases. If you feel like your inbox is being bombarded, simply unsubscribe after you redeem the deal or create a separate account for promotional emails.
7. Beware of “buy more, save more” tactics. Many retailers offer bigger discounts on larger purchase values, but these promotions encourage shoppers to spend more than they may have budgeted. Express, for example, is offering $25 off $75 or $50 off $150. You may be tempted by the prospect of $50 savings but in fact, both promotions will yield you the same 33-percent discount.
8. “App” into your smartphone for savings. Target’s newest app, Cartwheel, gives you instant access to additional in-store savings so you never miss a deal. Coupon Sherpa offers free mobile coupons for various back-to-school clothing destinations like Aeropostale, where you can save 20-percent off your purchase. Foursquare enables you to unlock deals by “checking-in” to a retailer, while ShopKick rewards you with points to be redeemed for gift cards.
9. Don’t forget the coupon code box when ordering clothes online. Stores like Kohl’s even allow you to enter more than one promo code, potentially scoring you free shipping and additional discounts. Peruse your favorite coupon site or just search for the retailer name and “coupon code” for savings.
10. Buy classic clothing for your older kids so you can easily pass them down to younger ones. If you find a great deal on an item that’s a bit big, buy it anyway since your child will grow into it soon. The same goes for shoes and pricier items like coats and boots.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.