Sense & Centsibility Blog

It's Back to School Time... Again

When I first wrote this blog, I had a first grader and a preschooler.  and now I have 2nd and 4th grader, where does the time go? When I young a school year seemed like an eternity and now a school year goes by in the blink of an eye! Well 3 years later these lessons still ring true, but times are changing so there are a few things I would like to add.

School Clothes Shopping

Last fall I went school clothes shopping for my daughter. I was thinking about picture day, school programs, winter weather, and of course what I thought she would look adorable in sitting perfectly in at her tiny desk. So I stocked her up on jeans, cute sweaters, dresses, shoes for every occasion, and the best outdoor gear I could find for the playground. Lessons…

  1. Take inventory

I should have taken an inventory of what she had in her closet that fit, and what she actually needed.  She had plenty of sweaters and jeans already, but she was low on T-shirts and clothes to layer. What I found out was that when you get twenty 5-year-olds in one room, it can get pretty hot.  Sweaters were not always an ideal choice. As for the dresses, with the long winter we had there wasn’t many dress appropriate days. So what she already had would have been plenty. Spend some time in their closet before you shop and make a list and stick to it. Bonus: you can donate or sell their clothes that don’t fit anymore. Now you are ready to shop for what you need and your child has a clean closet.

  1. Choose your battles

Turns out a 5-year-old girl can suddenly develop a very strong opinion about what she wears…who knew? Most mornings went just fine, but there were some that didn’t go as smoothly. I heard a lot of “It’s too scratchy”, “I don’t like that color” or “I just don’t like how it feels”. Although you and your child will not always see eye to eye on apparel it's to your benefit to make sure what you purchase will actually be worn! Ask them about their favorite things to wear and why.

  1. They work hard and play hard

Not only did she grow a full size over the year but she was a lot harder on her clothes than I expected. She wore holes in the knees of pants and along with stains from paints, markers, and the occasional food spill the harshness of kindergarten was starting to show. So shop the bargains and stock up on the stain remover.

  1. Things disappear

Kids leave things behind - in the gym, in the cafeteria, out on the playground, in the classroom, and on the bus to name a few. Finding something in an elementary school lost and found is like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Label their clothes and don’t send them to school in anything you are not willing to permanently part with because you may never see it again.

  1. Shop outside the box

There are now sites like where you can sell your clothing and buy new and gently used clothing for women and children. You can even use the proceeds from the sale of your gently used clothes towards the purchase of your kids' school clothes. I have used this site myself and have been pleased overall with the quality of kids' clothing. However, there are some things to consider. The selection is limited so you likely won’t find everything you are looking for.

If you are selling your clothing, it's important to know they don’t take all brands. And they only want flawless clothing; so check the accepted brands and condition before you send your clothing in.  Even if your items meet all the standards they may not take all of your clothing. If you want them to mail what they don’t use back to you, you can pay $12 or they will donate it for you. My advice is to keep your expectations low when it comes to the monetary return on the clothes you donate; it will be cents on the dollar. But all in all, it is a nice way to declutter and find some great affordable clothing for your kids. 

School Supplies

  1. Keep the receipts

School supplies were a little easier because you get a list from the school telling your child needs for the year and then you can shop for savings on those items. Something to keep in mind; save the receipts for your child’s school related supplies, they may be tax deductible depending on what State you live in. Every little bit helps!


  1. Leave the kids at home

My kids really do not enjoy shopping so that makes it much easier for me, I can take the list and get what is needed. In the past I have had the kids come with me because I thought they would want to pick out their stuff but what ended up happening was that they didn’t care about what was on the list and wanted all the cool stuff that wasn’t on their supply list.

  1. Go online

Like my children, I loathe shopping so when I heard that there are now websites that will package your list of supplies and send them to you… my mind was blown. Also some sites even have your school with the grades and teachers supply packages all ready to go…BRILLIANT!!

    4. Pace yourself

With school, sports, and activities come… fundraisers. Each one for a good cause but if you don’t pace yourself you will find that you have financially over-committed. Give what you can comfortably donate, and if you want to contribute more, donate your time. Talk with your child’s school about volunteering, not only are you supporting your child and their school but setting a good example at the same time.

Then, think about next year and track your spending on school clothes, supplies, and activities, etc. Once you determine that amount, think about setting a little bit aside - when it's affordable - into a periodic savings account. Planning ahead for these costs will help you stick to your budget.

Author Ashley Hagelin is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling. She specializes in Foreclosure Prevention and Reverse Mortgage Counseling.