6 Smart Ways Parents Can Save on Back-to-School Clothes

Children outgrow their clothes so darn fast, it feels like you always have to be on the lookout for the next size up. The cost of all those new clothes can add up quickly, but there are ways to get your kiddo some new clothes for cheap, or even free. If you want to save money, you'll have to do a little more legwork in searching for deals, arranging swaps, and browsing garage sales. Ultimately though, it'll all pay off when you tell your friends how little you paid for your child's gorgeous new wardrobe. (See also: 6 Genius Ways to Stock Up on School Supplies)

1. Swap hand-me-downs

I know tons of parents who are awash in hand-me-downs and would gladly give them to the first person who asked. The ideal situation is when you can swap hand-me-downs with another family. For instance, I have a friend who has kids about the same age as mine, but her daughter is shorter than my daughter, and her son is taller than my son. It works out perfectly for me to get clothes for my son, and for her to get clothes for her daughter. Barring this kind of perfect swap situation, try hosting a swap party with a few other parents so everyone can find something they need.

2. Check out online thrift stores

I am in the process of outfitting my daughter for the school year. I'm reluctant to splurge on some new leather dance shoes, which are quite expensive and are quickly outgrown. Luckily, I remembered the existence of my Poshmark account, and I quickly found a barely-used pair in the right size for less than half the amount of buying new. Poshmark, Thredup, and other online consignment stores are perfect for those more specialized items that you can't find at the local thrift or consignment store.

3. Shop lots on eBay, or Craigslist

A quick search on eBay turned up a 32-piece lot of used baby girl clothes in like-new condition for $12.99. Plenty of people sell bundles of outgrown clothing on eBay or Craigslist, allowing you to pick up an entire wardrobe for your child for a low price. You won't be able to hand-select each piece, but you can at least guarantee your child will be clothed. You'll have to comb through the listings, as there are some lots that are overpriced, versus some that are a great deal, but the potential for savings is huge.

4. Take advantage of online sales

If you wait for a really good sale at various kids retailers, you can get clothes for the same price as buying used. Recently, I made a back-to-school purchase for my kids at a popular kids' clothing store. From the clearance section, I got nightgowns for $6, shorts for $3, and T-shirts and leggings for $4 each. As long as you're not too picky about the print or pattern, you can really clean up. (See also: 4 Effortless Ways to Save on Back-to-School Shopping)

5. Use store credit

Sometimes relatives will give my children a super fancy, but impractical outfit that they purchased at full price. While I appreciate the thought, I feel no shame in returning the fancy clothes (which will be worn maybe once or twice in the year) for store credit, and then using that store credit to shop the clearance rack for two or three outfits that will be worn frequently instead. I also feel no shame returning newly-gifted toys to big box stores and exchanging them for clothes we need.

6. Shop a season ahead

This is something our frugal parents and grandparents would tell us is a no-brainer. Shop at the end of the season, when things are on clearance, and you'll have a new wardrobe for that season the following year. So at the end of the winter, shop for jackets and boots in a larger size so they'll fit your child next year. You will have to do some guesstimating, so I always go for a little larger than I think I'll need. It sure beats shopping for a ski trip at the last minute and buying ski jackets at full retail price (gasp!).

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6 Smart Ways Parents Can Save on Back-to-School Clothes

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