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Before shopping, go through your child's wardrobe together and assess what pieces they need for back to school. That way you won't load up on shirts only to realize what he was really short on was khakis. You'd be amazed how many garments can be "lost" in the car trunk, back of closets, under beds, behind the laundry machines, underneath hampers, in backpacks and so on, so do a search and rescue first.
Draft a shopping list
Base it on what you find during the previous tip. It'll be easier to stay on track this way.
Designate a shopper
Where possible, one parent should be responsible for overseeing back-to-school shopping. This will avoid overlapping purchases and ensure the correct items are purchased. (In our household, for example, I'm responsible for back-to-school shopping after my husband ended up spending $300 on glittery belts, tights and a snowboarding suit for our 6-year-old, when the actual shopping list consisted of "back-to-school clothes," which perhaps I should have itemized as "pants, skirts and long-sleeve tees.")
Spend more money, buy less often
Quality garments tend to last the longest. Buy one to two sizes up wherever safety isn't an issue (you don't want your daughter tripping on a skirt that's way too long for her) and your kids will get more wear from your wardrobe buck. Remember, cotton outlasts (and is more comfy than) poly, and merino wool is longer-lasting than acrylic. Follow care instructions to the letter to keep clothes in top condition.
Recoup some of your "start-up" costs
You can recover some of your kids' wardrobe costs by re-selling their old clothes at consignment boutiques or used-clothing stores. The best candidates: unstained, on-trend clothes from recognized brands like Gap, Gymboree or The Children's Place and the like. Or sell worn clothing of all kinds at a yard sale.
Host a clothing swap
Invite friends and relatives to meet at your home for a 2-hour clothing swap kaffe klatsch. Everyone brings freshly laundered kids clothing and puts them into designated piles (i.e. girls' tops, boys' shirts, skirts, dresses etc.) All participants get to take home the same number of freebies as they brought in. Serve coffee, tea and treats to encourage lingering and conversation. Much more fun for moms than a trip to the mall – cheaper, too!
Secondhand, not second best
Some kids will wear almost whatever you put in their closets. Others, well, not so much. If your child balks at the slightly outré ankle break in a pair of pants or hates the chafing of a pullover with pilling in the armholes, you need to up your game. Shop at consignment boutiques, secondhand stores and yard sales in your community's trendy or upscale neighbourhoods to get better quality used clothes.
If you use Airmiles reward cards, avoid store lineups and earn Airmiles points by shopping online through Airmilesshops.ca. Simply type in your collector number, and then load up on back-to-school togs from well-priced national retailers ranging from American Eagle to Zellers. Save money down the road by using your points towards travel or product discounts.
Shop used online
Search for used kids' clothes on eBay, Craigslist or Kijiji to get yard-sale prices without having to spend the weekend trawling actual yard sales.
Let your kid get a few new back-to-school pieces now so they'll be excited about returning to class, but reserve the heavy-duty reinforcements until fall clothing goes on deep discount in a few weeks. Your kids will have a better idea of what they truly "must have" by then, too.
You can reduce your back-to-school shopping considerably in the future if you stock up throughout the year. Buy from this season's sales racks in next year's sizes, but remember to stick to the basics: jeans, khakis, yoga pants, plain short- and long-sleeve tees and hoodies. Avoid any trendy styles, logos or branded personalities in case your kid wants nothing to do with Hannah Montana this time next year.
Check out these tips to help make the back-to-school transition easier.