Back-to-School Shopping Sans Clutter

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 per child on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation, or $59 more than last year.

Given the downturn in spending while kids were distance-learning during the #pandemic, the uptick isn’t surprising. In fact, that lull in spending may mean that many students (and their parents) will be buying more #stuff this year than ever before.

If you’re going to be shopping for school in the weeks ahead, consider what you really need — and what you and your kids can shed in order to make room for it. Otherwise, all of that too-small clothing and all of those broken iPads will just add to the #clutter.

To keep levels of #junk in check, do a thorough #decluttering before you send the kids back to school. Help your children sort toys and books into four piles, Motherly suggests: Keep, donate, trash and “not quite yet.” Put the not-quite-yets in a closet or other out-of-the-way place until your child is comfortable letting them go.

Clothing is simpler: If a garment doesn’t fit, it should be handed down, sold at your next #yardsale or #donated immediately. If something it too worn to be of any further use, you can cut it into rags or trash it.

Books that won’t get read again can go, too. While you may want to hold on to classics that get read again and again, some books are age- or classroom-specific. If your child isn’t going to read a book again, you can donate it to a local library or ClothingDonations.org.

Finally, you can take any starred assignments and drawings from last year off the bulletin board or fridge. New ones will be on the way in just a few weeks, and Family Handyman suggests several #space-saving ways to save and show off a few family favorites.

Once you’ve cleared out the extra stuff you won’t be using, you’ll have space for nearly $900 in new goods. Make a list and start shopping early, however, since there may be shortages of essential items such as backpacks, stationery and tablet computers due to supply-chain disruptions.

“What we will likely see is more limited choice and lower stock levels towards the end of the back-to-school period,” Neil Saunders, retail analyst at GlobalRetail Data, told CNN. “Some consumers will inevitably miss out on the things they want to purchase.”

Thrift to Save on Back-to-School Costs

Most schools across the country will be starting the school year in just a few weeks — and you can tell, since the back-to-school promotions have begun in earnest at the chain stores. But if you really want to save money, you don’t have to buy everything brand-new at a Target, Walmart or Gap. Back-to-school time is one time of year when it pays to shop at the local thrift store.

If you have young children headed back to school, chances are good that they have grown out of the clothes they were wearing last fall. Good news! Thrift stores are full of lightly used clothing and school uniforms that either fit someone’s kid until recently or didn’t get worn much at all. A lot of it is desirable, big-label stuff, points out The Well-Kept Wallet, that’s getting sold at a fraction of its original price.

If you live in a northern climate, you can get the jump on winter shopping, too. When people donate used or disused clothing to charities such as ClothingDonations.org, they often eliminate items such as sweaters and winter coats from their closets in the season they need them least — and that means you can score great deals well ahead of the onset of winter weather — and long before the selection gets picked-over.

One parent writing in The Penny Hoarder reports that she was able to outfit her two daughters, both in elementary school, for less than $40 by visiting thrift stores and rummage sales strategically. The children helped her shop on most trips, she says, and likely learned to appreciate a great value at the same time.

If the kids are headed off to college, a thrift store can be an even greater resource. There, you can find items such as desks, bookshelves, coffee tables, lamps and small appliances at bargain prices, as well as the bed linens, dishes and other household goods every college student will need for the first time when moving into a dorm or residence. The thrift can also be a great source for office supplies and backpacks.

Buying at a thrift store supplied by donations to ClothingDonations.org has the added benefit of saving you money while helping fund programs for veterans. And remember, you can contact ClothingDonations.org at any time to schedule a pickup of the clothing and other items your own kids have grown out of or just don’t use anymore. Somebody will be able to use that stuff, but to you, it’s just clutter.

Including clothing, electronics, shoes and school supplies, families will spend an average of $688 on each child during the back-to-school season, according to an annual survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF), and $970 on every college student. But you can keep those costs down — way down — with a trip to the thrift store!

Back to School!

If you walk into nearly any store at this time of year, it’s hard to miss the telltale signs that kids will be back to school soon. Paper, pencils, folders and calculators seem to be everywhere, not to mention the stacks of shirts and jeans.

Did you know that August is the second-largest sales month for retailers? That’s great news for parents eager to take advantage of sales, coupons and online retailers for the best bargains as they outfit their children with the clothing and tools they’ll need for the school year.

Here’s a handy list of no-nonsense, money-saving tips to get your students—and their closets—ready for school:

  • What will your children need for school? Don’t just guess; take a trip through their rooms, dressers and closets to form an inventory for each child.
  • Empty drawers of any clothing your child has outgrown. Donate clothing that’s in good condition.
  • Determine if you can give some pieces of clothing new life with tie-dye. Are pants too short? Turn them into shorts or capri pants.
  • Develop a shopping list for each child.
  • Set a budget. Remember, there is a difference between wants and needs. If you can afford it, let each child select a splurge item.
  • When you are shopping, train your children to find the sale rack. Explain to them how these items, if they fit, can help stretch your budget.
  • If you have more than one school-aged youngster, consider shopping with one child at a time, and make it special by stopping for lunch or dinner on the way home.
  • Develop a shopping map to reduce driving time. You might be able to find all the clothing you need at one store. And, if you’re lucky, that store will offer school supplies as well.
  • Don’t forget that online retailers often run sales with no shipping charges. It’s another stress-free option if your child can’t tolerate long shopping excursions.
  • If your child likes certain name brands that are likely to bust your budget, check out closeout stores such as T.J. Maxx or Marshalls to reduce costs.
  • Looking to stretch your budget even further? Department stores will be reducing fall inventory with great sales in October. Consider shopping for part of your back-to-school list at that time.

Above all, make the back-to-school process fun and exciting for your child. Helping your child look well-dressed and ready to learn is a great way of highlighting the importance of school.

As you’re going through closets, separate out the clothes and other items your children have outgrown or no longer need or want. Then give us a call. We’ll come and take those used items off your hands—and you’ll be benefiting veterans in the process.