Friday, August 20, 2010

Don’t You Just Love A Bargain…

… particularly when it’s time for back-to-school shopping? With three kids in different sizes, back-to-school shopping is a major undertaking… and expense, so I’ve come up with some ways to cut down on mall time and keep a handle on the budget.

First, a master chart. Sneakers, underwear, bathing suits, winter coats, clothes for band concerts, cleats for sports – it’s all listed.

Second – we go through each kid’s clothes. It’s a pain but we have a git’r’dun approach. Everything is tried on, outgrown clothes are packed away for the next kid or bagged for donating, and I end up with an inventory of what fits and what they need. This list prevents overbuying, or the famous “why did we buy you a navy blue polo when you already have two that fit in your closet” moments, and guides clearance rack shopping for seasonal items (like next year’s bathing suits).

It used to be easier; I could take the list to one or two stores and be done. Then last year the Oldest grew enough to fit into men’s sizes and reached the age where labels came into play (yes, even boys go through it). Thankfully, the Middle Child isn’t picky; he prefers athletic team jerseys and jeans, anything to not have to go shopping. As for the Baby, he has enough hand-me-downs that I may never have to buy anything more than underwear and shoes.

It seemed the perfect time to teach the Oldest the joys of shopping at discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Filene’s Basement (my apologies to the Kohl’s and Bob’s shoppers – I just never have luck at those stores). That suggestion was met with a look of absolute horror – he wanted name brands from the actual stores, not knockoffs. I knew that look, having grown up a chubby girl in the ‘80s with no-name jeans and a knockoff Fair Isle sweater in a town where designer jeans ruled and the unspoken dress code was The Preppy Handbook (yeah, remember THAT gem?!?).

We compromised. He learned discount stores do carry some name brands (Filene’s Basement had three racks of American Eagle clothes), was introduced to the clearance racks in his favorite stores, and instead of buying only name brand clothes (or as Hubby likes to say, “looking like you were thrown up by American Eagle), learned to mix stuff from the stores he wanted with jeans or shorts from Target. The last piece of the puzzle? I signed up online for all the coupons and sale notices his favorite stores have to offer. And we did okay. He didn’t need that much, and with the sales and coupons, we stayed on budget.

This year the Oldest starts high school. He also has a job after school three days a week, so he needs more collared shirts and chinos. With this in mind and list in hand, we were off to the mall Saturday.  Thinking there would be lines everywhere (it was a Tax-Free Shopping Weekend in Massachusetts, which for clothes shopping doesn’t really matter – we don’t pay taxes on clothes here), I was surprised by an empty mall full of bargains and sales. His hit list? Aéropostale, Hollister, American Eagle - and while I prefer some stores to others (and it's my credit card), we scoured them all for bargains.  Buy One Get One Free deals plus clearance plus coupons netted us 2/3rd off most purchases, making me happy, and names tattooed across his chest, making him happy. Quick stops at Old Navy for chinos that don’t look like they’ve been worn before, TJ Maxx for a few dress shirts and a fall jacket, and Target for shorts, his list is down to one item – a white dress shirt, which I will get at Walmart next week. The Middle Child got even luckier – I grabbed jeans and chinos on sale at Old Navy, the two items besides sneakers on his shopping list – he didn’t even have to go to the mall! A quick trip to Modell’s that evening got us the sneakers and some football gear he needed, and clearance racks plus sales and coupons saved us another bundle.

As of now, back-to-school clothes shopping is done. Unless the Oldest grows five inches in the next week, which could happen, right? Okay, so I won’t take the tags off anything yet.

So how’s your shopping going? Do you do it now or wait until later in the fall? How do you come up with your back-to-school shopping list? What tricks do you use to save money, and have you found you’ve cut back on your clothing budget due to the economy?


Two Normal Moms said...

Holy cow - you've got it down! I've taught mine that name brands CAN be found at TJMaxx and such, too. Sometimes we get pretty lucky.


Stacey said...

Cameron is 17 months and I can't seem to predict the correct size for buying ahead. It's very frustrating! At least she doesn't care about clothes so I buy at consignment stores :-)

evenshine said...

I, too, am amazed by your planning and saving measures! My only school-aged child started Catholic school this week, so UNIFORMS. We bought them all from Land's End in one fell swoop, using 25% off and Free Shippping codes...then hit Target for tees and jeans for the off days. Wish we had a tax-free weekend here...sigh....