Thursday, 18 August 2016

Weekly Column: Outfitting Kids for School

Dress for Success: Outfitting Kids on a Budget

Although parents may not want to think about it, back to school is just around the corner. Putting off getting prepared, as in most things, might end up costing you extra money. The time to start watching for sales on clothing is now. But where to look?

Take Inventory

Go through your children’s closets. What do you need for shoes, boots and winter clothing? Do they need a few new things to spruce up their back-to-school wardrobe? Try to purchase a size up to account for sudden growth spurts. Make a list of what you are watching for and stick to your list.

Shop off-season

Just as your kids are busy wearing out their swim trunks, shorts and flip flops, stores are beginning to clear out their summer stock. Now is the time to watch for next year’s sizes at a reduced price. Yes, money is tight and you need to gear up for school. But you will be buying these things next year—don’t wait and pay full price if you can help it. Similarly, watch for winter boots and snow suits if you have no alternative but to purchase new. But remember, you must only buy what is needed.

Online, New and Used

There are great clearance deals to be found online. Factor in the cost of shipping, though, and consider if it is really saving you money. Could you support a locally owned business instead? If your budget is tight this year, use great discretion when shopping online. Wait a day before going through the virtual check out. You may find you are not as impulsive after a good night’s sleep.

Are you fortunate enough to be offered hand-me-down clothing for your kids? Have you shied away from accepting in the past? Look at it this way: most clothing is made in poor countries with dismal working conditions. But when you buy or accept used clothing you reduce the demand for more of it to be produced. You also delay that item being taken to a landfill. Sort through hand-me-downs; keep what you can use and either donate or give away what you can’t. If you have invested a bit more money in some items for your children, you might want to list them on kijiji or have a garage sale of your own to get some money back. Feel good that you are passing on some savings to another family while saving a bit for yourself.

Are your children fashion divas? This is an excellent opportunity to teach them about the value of money. If they insist on the brand name ball cap and shoes, let them see how much money there is per child for clothing this year. Allow them to help decide how that money will be allocated. Allow the child to perform extra chores and try to find a compromise between new and used that works for everyone.

Thrift stores, garage sales and second hand sites

For those not blessed with a large extended family or friends with older children, there are still many ways to save on kids’ clothes. Local thrifts stores like For the Interval Store, LABIS Second Chance Clothing and The Olive Branch all donate the proceeds of their sales to great local causes. You might need to keep checking back to find what you are looking for, but you are likely to save a bundle. The same can be said for cruising garage sales and online sites like kijiji or different Facebook groups.

How much is enough?

Having less money is stressful but it gives everyone a reason to examine their priorities. How much do we really need to be happy? How much, realistically, should we spend on clothes for our kids? If they are warm enough, clean, well fed and loved, are those brand name clothes going to make them better people?

Downsizing the budget for kids clothing doesn’t reflect on your parenting. Having a couple outfits for school and a set of play clothes to change into afterwards teaches kids routine, responsibility, and respect for their belongings. If kids learn to fold their once-worn clothing and put it away for tomorrow, parents might spend less time doing laundry—an added benefit. Is it really that radical to suggest that we buy our kids clothes only when they actually need something? Ask yourself this: would you rather your kids have designer name brand clothing now, or an education savings plan later? Is keeping name brand clothing on their backs threatening the roof over their heads? Having your children dressed stylishly in stain-free, good quality clothing can be done on a tight budget if are always watching for great deals. The more effort you put in, the more you will save.


  1. Good suggestions that apply to both children and adults! I think taking inventory is one of the most important suggestions.
    ~ Pru

    1. Yes, if you don't know what you need you are just spending money randomly. We stopped at a garage sale yesterday and I got my son nice brand name, new quality, jeans for $2. He has to grow into them but they'd have been $40 or more at the store. I was really happy!