Though back-to-school shopping is often dreaded by parents and their bank accounts, thinking about it early may help ease the financial pain. Since even good serviceable store brand children’s clothing is expensive, to say nothing of designer brands, parents need to closely figure the minimum number of pants, shirts and so forth to get though the school year. Fewer sets of clothes mean either more frequent washing sessions or that the same outfits have to be worn several more times before laundering. It is also important to try to get children to work with parents, rather than against them, to avoid overspending on high-priced clothing fads.
Writer Mary Hunt has wise words about kids’ notions that their parents have a key to Fort Knox. She says that parents love their children and bring them up giving them everything they need. The children accept all the care without thinking about it, and expect it to continue. But as kids grow, TV and peer pressure have an effect. Now the kids think they “need” designer clothes and electronic I-whatevers. At this point the parents begin to balk and say such things cost too much. “Where’s the love?” the kids moan, suddenly unsure of their folk’s care for them, not to mention being unsure of the competence of people who cannot raise a limitless supply of money. Mrs. Hunt’s assessment is grim: if that is the issue, then no amount of money will ever be enough.
A recovering shop-a-holic, Mrs. Hunt gave each of her children a “salary” and told them what they were responsible for buying with it. At first it was enough money for a few treats. Each year, the things the kids were responsible for buying increased, and their “salary” was raised. By the time the children were old enough to care what designer label was on their clothes, they could be trusted to evaluate clothes in terms of price. Mrs. Hunt announced that she would pay for good store brand clothing, but paying extra for expensive brands was the kids’ responsibility—using their own money.
For those who appreciate Mrs. Hunt’s advice but wish they had known it years ago before their kids’ expectations were formed, here are tips on back-to-school clothes buying: 1) make a list of the items needed and price them by visiting stores after work or checking ads online. 2) Add up the prices to learn the minimum amount the clothes buying spree will cost. Compare this with the funds available for the task, either saved or the amount you are willing to put on a charge card. 3) Figure a discretionary fund for each child so that they can afford perhaps one outfit that is above the basic level for which you have budgeted. Visits to the stores should have given an idea of the price difference between items you are willing to buy and higher-priced merchandise. If you are lucky your children will study prices to stretch the discretionary funds you have given them instead of begging you to overspend your budget.
This approach works better if clear ground rules are announced before the shopping trip begins. First, the budgeted money plus discretionary funds is all the money that will be spent (you know you can outfit your kids for that amount because you checked prices ahead of time). Second, every item on the list will be purchased, and nothing else (get the kids’ ideas while the list is being prepared, not while in the store). Third, you will not buy lesser-quality underwear and so forth in order to let a child stretch the budget on one flashy outfit. Put underwear, socks and other essentials into the shopping cart quickly and mark them off your list.
Sales on school clothes and school supplies begin in July. In addition, children’s and juniors’ clothing goes on clearance in November and December. That raises the possibility of buying some clothes now and waiting for lower prices in a few months to buy the rest.

Comments are closed.