6 Money-Saving Tips for Back to School Shopping

Back to School Shopping Is Baaaaack!

It’s the time of year when teens and discounts pop up in malls across the U.S. in the annual hunt for “back to school” clothes. David and I pass five schools to get to work each day. More often than not, what the kids wear look like a combination of 80’s style and gym clothes. We can’t help but let our inner elder show.

Nonetheless, parents all across the land of the free-to-shop are expected to dole out the equivalent of a mortgage payment to restyle their kids from head to toe each school year. Our goal is to help you implement the money conscious back to school shopping method with a dash of NSE (not-so-expensive).

Don’t Even

Your first option is to not participate with the other rabble rousers in the back to school shopping extravaganza. If your kid is older and didn’t get an injection of puberty over the summer, there’s a good chance that much, if not all, of their clothes from last year is still wearable.

How can we expect you to show such tough love? This is the ideal time to not shop. Fashion often mirrors the economy. What’s in fashion now? Hipsters. What do hipsters love to do? Hipsters love to not buy new stuff, but repurpose, reuse and recycle old stuff. Exercise this strategy with your most stylish youth. Pegged jeans are back like Slim Shady. Slight floods en vogue. Streetwear (i.e., t-shirts, shorts and jeans)? Hot! The lumberjack look is still trendy. Who can’t find a plaid or flannel shirt in their parent’s or grandparent’s closet? Homemade wide-arm sleeveless tees and tanks are back. Let your student go all Fatal Attraction with a pair of scissors to their favorite tee.

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Shop Your Closets

Stealing flannels from grandpa brings us to our next suggestion. Okay, this one we stole from our favorite Denver blogstress, Michelle Jackson, of the Shop My Closet Project. If your kid spent the day cleaning out their closet, there’s a good chance they’d find something they forgot they owned. If they’re anything like moi, they may even have clothes with tags on them.

In fact, get the whole family involved in closet cleaning as long as you all agree to leave the skeletons alone. Have everyone put whatever they no longer want or can use a pile to let the other family members pilfer at their interest. Sometimes a shirt or pants that mom or dad can no longer wear because adults grow out not up, can be reworked into a youthful look.

Any items left on the pile go to a local thrift shop for a tax right-off or store credit. Speaking of thrifting . . . .

Pop Tags

Okay, so maybe you can’t buy nothing for your kid(s). Double negative intentional. For a modest wardrobe update, hit your local thrift store. Yours truly have scored nicely at thrift stores in Denver. This is often more miss than hit like The Phillies, but the occasional win is worth it. One man’s short is another man’s pant, says he of 5’4”.


With the underlying fundamentals of the nation’s economic improvements being what they are, consignment shops have seen a surge in success over the last few years. Consider consignment shops to thrift shops like Target to Walmart. These stores are often more hip and edgy compared to thrift shops, as the consignment store staff filters through the clothes they receive each day like a Friday night on Hot or Not.

These items are, at a minimum, “gently” used. You won’t see Sach’s Fifth Avenue pricing in these bargain basements, but your kid will look cool. Remember, their definition of cool is not your definition of nice.

Go Lesser

In a world where the uber-wealthy are ditching top-notch, labels, it’s only fashionable for us to do the same. If a mall is definitely in your future, blank the brand logo obsessed stores. If a shirt has one or more names on it of some schlep you don’t know, say bye bye. While in America it’s hard to completely avoid name brands, don’t be someone’s billboard. Gap and Levi sell jeans just as nice as Hugo Boss and Abercrombie & Fitch. T-shirts at Urban Outfitters are as original and quality as American Eagle. For that matter, Target has a great selection, especially for girls good with mixing and matching. For boys, a little-known secret is the men’s section in Forever 21 where you can get button down shirts for less than $20. Download a Groupon promo code and save even more. Speaking of digital . . . .

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Go Digital

Malls aren’t what they used to be, especially if your student wants to set and not follow trends. The best clothes and deals are often online. Through my constant quest for the stylishly affordable, I’ve three new favorite sites. All of these have reasonably priced clothes and even better sales. If you’re forward thinking enough, you can get deals only beatable by knowing the designers.

  • ASOS – The UK based, independent online fashion mall. With over 60,000 reasonably priced brands, this site should appeal to even the most apparel conscious boy or girl.
  • YesStyle – An Asia-based affordable, online shopping marketplace. This site has great, out-there styles that will set your student apart from the rest.
  • GuyLook – For the ultra-avant-garde boy, we mean super confident and individualistic. GL positions itself in the middle of men’s fashion. Sometimes it wins. Sometimes it loses.

As you can see, with a little planning and open-mindedness, you can send your kid back for another school year without you having to get another job. Sending them back to school without spending any money may be impossible, but some of these ideas should offset and spending you do have.

Let us know your thoughts. How do you save on back to school shopping?

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