1. Money
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Back to School Shopping on a Budget

Back to School Shopping Saving Tips


Young mother and son in bookstore
Michael H/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Part of the excitement of school starting each year for kids, is the new stuff they need. All the new clothes, new shoes, new book bags, lunch boxes and even new pens and pencils also adds financial stress to our checking accounts. The good news is, there are alternatives to spending an outrageous amount of money making certain our child's wardrobe is up to snuff. Here are tips on how, when and where to shop for back to school when you are on a budget.

General Tips



  • Never stop shopping for back to school merchandise. Buy when you see items on sale and pack it away until next year.
  • Dive into the super discount bins at stores such as the Dollar Store, Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, CVS and Office Depot. You can find huge savings on notebooks, pencils, erasers, clips and even socks and underwear.
  • Buy clothing off the final sale racks that your child can grow into, but avoid fashion trends. Basics rarely go out of style.

Shop the Outlet Malls

Shopping at the outlet malls for back to school clothing is an great way to increase how much you get for your money.
What you can expect to find:
  • You will find many popular brands, including designer brands, at lower prices. Right off the rack, you can expect to save 20 percent at the very least. If you go during peak sale time and holiday weekends (like Labor Day) then you can look to save up to 70 percent.


  • The regular stores which also have outlets send many of the past season's merchandise to the outlets. If you are looking for basics, such as khaki pants, cardigans, hoodies, polos, sweats, shoes and accessories you will be able to find a better a better selection of the drastically reduced items by shopping at the outlet store.


  • Outlet stores are as promotional as the regional malls with coupons, bounce-back coupons, outlet mall customer appreciation programs and group discounts.
The days of outlet malls being filled with damaged merchandise is long gone, however you will come across slightly irregular merchandise. Usually it takes a magnifying glass to see the problem, but it's best to play it safe and inspect everything you plan on buying.

Department Store Shopping

Stores like Wal-Mart, Sears and Target get aggressive with their marketing when back to school time rolls around. Each carry decent inventories in school uniforms, but they sell out fast. June and early July is the perfect time to go browse the sale racks, especially if you are not limited to buying just uniforms.

Organize a Swap Meet

Get in touch with neighbors, friends and family who have young children and begin a swap group and have a swap party.



  • Designate a time for everyone to meet. Each will be asked to bring their children's outgrown clothes.
  • Separate the clothing by gender and size.
  • Everyone, in order, may choose a piece of clothing from the pile. Then the next person goes, and so on, until all the desired pieces have been selected.
Tip: Sending invitations is a fun way to get the swap going and offers a good opportunity to lay down the ground rules such as the clothing should be clean and rip and stain free.

Consignment Shops and Thrift Shops

Using consignment shops as a way to help with back-to-school expenses is a growing trend. Not only will you get back a percentage of the cost of the clothes your child has outgrown, but also the "slightly worn" replacement clothing you might find may be a pleasant surprise. Many of today's consignment shops only accept top-brand clothing in very good condition.

There is no reason to shy away from stores like Goodwill. Often retailers donate previous season clothing which was never sold to charitable organization like Goodwill.

Garage Sales

Garage sales can be a fantastic place to find back-to-school supplies. Common items found at garage sales are children's book bags, lunch boxes, eraser boards, clothing and accessories. I have even found unopened packages of notebook paper, pencils, pencil sharpeners, notebooks and learning tools such as dictionaries and basic math books.

For the college-bound student, you can find new and used books, luggage, computers, calculators and other useful high-price items at one-tenth the original price.

Swaps, Auctions and Second-hand Stores Online

Don't have much in the way of consignment stores or swaps where you live? Try browsing the online sites to broaden your choices.


Consignment Shops - Local Listing

Consignment shops are often hard to find and hidden away in small strip centers. This site has a list of local consignment shops by state and town.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.