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Why You Don't Need to Buy an All-New Back-to-School Wardrobe

Why You Don't Need to Buy an All-New Back-to-School Wardrobe

With a new school year on the horizon, it’s easy for parents to feel pressured to buy new clothes for their kids. But when last year’s clothes still fit and money is tight, many moms wonder where to reasonably draw the line on buying a back-to-school wardrobe.

The issue at stake for many moms is that pressure doesn’t simply come from the flood of TV and radio commercials — it also arises from the fear that one’s child could be cruelly teased for wearing older clothes that are worn out or no longer “cool.” 

Circle of Moms members like Jenny recall feeling humiliated by an outdated wardrobe: “I was brought up poor and it was horrifying putting on my acid wash jeans and kitty print sweater when they were no longer cool (they WERE cool at one point ya know) because we couldn't afford anything else.”


Sarah K. had a similar experience: “I was a 12-year-old girl that was made fun of all the time. The girls … did make fun of the clothes that I wore, because I didn’t have the best of clothes. They were hand-me-downs, none of them fit, and I only had three outfits.”

While moms like Lisa B. say they simply can’t spend the money on back-to-school clothes, many other Circle of Moms members encourage striking a budget-friendly compromise between buying no new clothes and purchasing an entire new wardrobe.

As Linda L. suggests: “At least buy a couple of [sets] of new clothes, because even if your children are young, they can still feel embarrassed for having to wear the same clothes that they wore the year before.”

And luckily, Circle of Moms members have several great suggestions for buying back-to-school clothing items cheaply.

  • Shop consignment stores.  I hit the Goodwill stores," shares Debbie C. "Sometimes you can find brand new clothes.” Latoya G agrees: “Goodwill has really nice kids' clothes for practically nothing.” 
  • Organize a clothes swap. “Why not try a clothes swap?" suggests Helen R. "You get a couple of friends and everyone invites 1 or 2 people for a Sunday, and bring clothes to swap. You can specify children's clothes only, or open it up to all sizes for more diversity."
  • Focus on affordable stores: Many big chain stores are great for inexpensive children's clothing, says Jennifer H. “You can get lots of t-shirts these days for 1-4 dollars at places like Target and Walmart, or try TJMAX, Marshalls or Ross. Meanwhile, Michelle W. recommends sales at Old Navy, and Stacey S. loves the kids' clothes and shoes at Target: "They're priced right, well made and very trendy. My four-year-old son has t-shirts with vintage ACDC, Beatles, etc. and everything is very affordable. The shoes are great, too."
  • Research AAA and  other discounts: As Katy P. recommends, it can pay to research special discounts offered by popuar stores: “For shoes check out places like Payless. They have coupons online and if you have AAA insurance you get a discount if you show your card.”
  • Join This free-to-join site helps connect people who want to give away items with others who need them. As Rose P. explains, the process is easy: "All you have to do is pick [the clothes] up. You take what you want and freecycle the rest.”
  • Freshen up old outfts: Another way to update your child's wardrobe on the cheap is to freshen up outfits with affordable accessories, or repurporse last year's clothes. As Magaly P. advises: “Teens and tweens can go crazy for bold necklaces, bangles, and hair pieces. Some ideas: You can give an old blouse a new look by switching up the buttons, cut jeans to make capris/shorts, or layer tops so they'll look different every time you wear them."
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