Back to School: Foolproof ways to save on clothing

It’s hard to believe back-to-school season is here, but the countdown is on to get kids of all ages ready for a successful year.

Parents plan to spend less on back-to-school shopping, according to the experts at RetailMeNot, even as they encounter a growing list of school supplies. Per-family spending estimates for students K-12 range from $246 to $630 depending on the source, with most of that allocated to clothing and electronics. So while school supplies are important (families will spend almost $100 on that, according to the National Retail Federation), it pays to find ways to save on other items.

Whether you are planning to shop in-store or online, start by reviewing what you already have and get your kids involved, says Shawn Anderson, fashion expert for Zulily, the member shopping site for moms, kids and babies. “Have them clean out their closets and decide what to donate and what they are going to replace it with,” she says. Then make a list of what you need and let your kids have some say in what they want to buy instead of micromanaging their wardrobe choices, Anderson advises.

Atlanta shoppers are big on brands like Crewcuts, Vineyard Vines, Bella Bliss, H&M and Lilly Pulitzer, the fastest sellers on ThredUP, the online resale store that helps shoppers save up to 80 percent off clothing for women and children.

Shopping resale (online or in-store) is just one way to save on back-to-school apparel. You may also want to check out deal websites or apps including Zulily and PatPat. Zulily hosts up to 100 events per day with prices up to 70 percent off, says Anderson, so you will likely find items that suit your needs and your budget. PatPat is a new app that offers up to 90 percent off on top-trending clothing, shoes, accessories, toys, and electronics for kids. A recent check showed most items priced under $15.


This year, back to school clothing for girls from Zulily, reflects trends such as these retro looks from the 1970s.

Online shopping makes it easier to find savings, compare prices and save time. Use price comparison tools such as Google Shopping (or the ShopSavvy app if you are shopping in-store) to search out the best deals, says Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor for RetailMeNot. This is particularly important for electronics. Other best practices for online shopping include searching for coupons before purchasing and making sure you get free shipping. Most websites have a minimum purchase to qualify, but you can also utilize “ship to store” options to avoid shipping fees.

We typically think of bulk shopping for school supplies, but it works for clothing as well. When you find value items, buy them in different colors and different sizes for subsequent years, Anderson says. Shopping on Georgia’s tax-free weekend (July 31-Aug. 1) will also help you save in-store and online, but depending on the purchase, your discount will be up to 8 percent off so buy only what you need.

As important as what you buy is when you buy. Here is a guide to help you time your shopping right:

Clothing: If your child is into trends, you’ll have to shop early before items sell out. You may sacrifice savings, but you’ll find what you need, Bodge says. For basics like socks and underwear, wait until after school starts for great discounts. In general, try to avoid buying fall clothing. Data from the deal pros at Ben’s Bargains shows current discounts on fall clothing at 10-30 percent off retail. Buy summer clothing at prices up to 90 percent off and learn how to layer. August is also a good time to get deals on sneakers as retailers try to reduce stock before winter.

Uniforms: Most major retailers now offer uniforms (Old Navy, GapKids, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Burlington, The Children’s Place), so be sure to comparison shop. Look for coupon codes on specific brands if you shop their websites. Be sure to check your child’s measurements as some uniforms are unisex, and give yourself plenty of time if you need to have logos embroidered.

Backpacks: Sales on the best backpacks, such as those with warranties from Lands’ End or Jansport, may be scarce right now. Late September will offer more deals. The exception is themed backpacks, which may not be deeply discounted but will definitely sell out if you don’t buy early, Bodge says. Now is a good time to invest in laptop bags or hiking bags, which are on clearance, according to Ben’s Bargains.

Electronics: Do not buy tablets now, as the best sales happen in late October through early December. Laptops are a better investment during back-to-school season with several models under $200. Also avoid buying a new smartphone, say the pros at Ben’s Bargains. The best deals on those devices will come in mid-November.

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