Everyone wants to make an impression on the first day of school. Back-to-school pictures will soon flood Facebook and other social media sites and the pressure to wear the trendiest styles is at an all-time high. Many parents have already started shopping for new school clothes for their children, but how do you know where to draw the line. It isn’t feasible for most families to spend hundreds of dollars on their child’s wardrobe, even if their child’s “coolness” is at stake.

Before taking your child to the nearest department store, there are things you can do to prevent shouting matches over jeans and crying jags over t-shirts. Sit down with your child and complete a clothing inventory. Even if your child insists “they have nothing to wear,” sit down and help them realistically analyze their wardrobe. Clothes that no longer fit can be donated or passed on to younger siblings. Clothes that are worn or tattered can be used for play time or disposed of. The remaining clothes should be organized so you have a realistic picture of your child’s clothing needs.

As with any shopping, setting a budget beforehand will help everyone understand their financial constraints. Avoid credit cards whenever possible. It is far too easy to continually swipe your cards without realizing exactly how much you are spending. If you must use credit, keep track of your purchases so there is no sticker shock when you get home.

You should include your children in the shopping process whenever possible. As long as a child can understand basic money principles, they can help stick to a budget. Tell them how much money they have allotted for shopping and give them a bit of wiggle room to make their own choices. Make sure they understand that a $40 shirt with Justin Bieber on the front costs the same as two or even three plain shirts. Allow them to make those types of choices as long as they will still have an appropriate wardrobe.

In addition, make sure your child understands the difference between a want and a need. He may want Dwayne Wade’s new basketball shoe, but he doesn’t need them. Vice versa, although your daughter doesn’t want to shop for new jeans, she may need to. Don’t focus entirely on needs, however. Give your child permission to look for one splurge item as long as your budget can absorb the costs.

Everything you purchase does not need to be new. Thrift stores can also be a treasure trove of used yet perfectly acceptable clothing items. In many cases, you will be able to find second-hand clothing that can’t be distinguished from items that are new. Avoid the temptation to help your child keep up with the proverbial Joneses. Although peer pressure is a powerful and often ugly social construct, it doesn’t have to have a negative effect on your child. If you can afford full-price brand name clothes, don’t tempt your child by shopping in expensive stores.

Finally, remind your child that the entire wardrobe does not need to be purchased before the first day of school. As the school year progresses, more and more items will be put on sale, especially as the holidays approach. If your child has their heart set on a certain item, give them a target cost to watch for. For instance, if your child wants a new Nike sweatshirt, tell them you will purchase it when the price falls below $35. Make it their responsibility to monitor sales. Your child can also ask for clothing as part of their birthday or Christmas gifts or complete extra chores to earn their own money. Allowing them to spend that money on anything they want will teach them a great deal about budgets and money.

Back-to-school clothes shopping doesn’t have to end in tears and silent treatments. Plan ahead and include your child in the preparations. When everyone stays on the same page, the shopping experience can be fun and enjoyable. Contrary to what some may believe, especially those with teenagers, clothes shopping does not need to be a painful experience.


By Jamee Larson