Back To School Shopping with a Budget

Please note that we are shopping with a budget not on a budget.  To be clear this is not a post about thrifty shopping or saving money.  It is actually a post about letting our kids spend money, but within a budget.

We’ve all experienced that must have item.  You know the Esprit sweatshirt or the Girbaud jeans or the Air Jordans , but our moms said no because it was too expensive.  We were mad at her and she was ruining our life. This budgeting technique allows the kids to have some control and manage the budget so mom is no longer the bad guy.  ( This idea is the same theory as the Disney Dollars post.)  Here is the plan:

Give your kids X amount of dollars to spend on school clothes.  You can set the limit high or low, depending on your house- hold budget, but the same lessons can be learned. The kids can choose to bargain shop and get lots of clothes or they can choose to spend all their money on that must have item.  They get to choose what is their priority: quantity, quality, brand names, style, etc. If possible, give them cash to work with.  They can see when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Before you go shopping,  assess what the kids need.  Do this with your kids. Go through drawers and shoe bins and try stuff on and throw stuff out so they know what they have before they go shopping.  Then generate a list together of what is needed:  1 pair of shoes, 2 shirts, 1 pair of jeans, etc.  The list may help keep their shopping focused.

Now this budgeting method will only work if we (the moms!) don’t cave and buy them more if they have mismanaged their budget or if they didn’t buy what we wanted them to buy.

My sister, Angela, and I took Elle and my niece back to school shopping to try out this concept.  We gave the girls a dollar amount and told them they could choose to spend their money how they wish.  Kenzie got more money than Elle and Elle said, “How come Kenzie gets more money than me?”  My response: “Kenzie’s clothes are bigger so they cost more…  And Aunt Angela is richer than us.”  (Lesson #1: We aren’t all living on the same budget, but we can all live within our budget.)

We took a little calculator along and it was fun to watch Elle add up totals and then subtract and deliberate and put clothes back.  She was very thoughtful about every purchase.

I feel like the girls learned many valuable shopping lessons.  They both learned about clearance and sale prices vs full price.   They learned about coupons and promotions. They learned about name brand vs. generic. They learned to watch the register during check out because we were charged more for some things than the tag said.  They learned how much clothes cost and how fast it adds up.  And they learned that they couldn’t buy everything they wanted.

Despite Elle and I’s differences in style, I felt like it was a very successful shopping experience.  (But we need to go out one more time because she still has $22 to spend and she still needs shoes.)

Maybe next year I can pull together a Back To School Shopping post that actually saves you money.

7 thoughts on “Back To School Shopping with a Budget”

  1. I LOVE that you mention Girbaud jeans. I swear that no one I’ve asked remembers them but they were the shizzle when I was in school.

  2. Girbaud was the big thing in 6th grade for me. I never had them though, because my Mom would give me X amount of money for school clothes and I could never justify buying them. I would buy as many things as possible with my money. I’m still the same way and sometimes I hate that about myself. I just don’t know if I have it in me to do this one. I think it would be good, but I don’t know if I could just let go and let Maleah buy whatever she wanted.

    1. But Shelley your mom did it for you and look how great you turned out- especially when it comes to staying within a budget. And she wouldn’t be buying ‘whatever’ if you had her stick to the list. And wouldn’t it be better for her to learn now and have some control now before she is a teenager when the stakes are higher? The worst that can happen is that she picks out an ugly shirt that is expensive. I also reserve the right to buy my kids one outfit (outside of their budget) so I at least know they have something cute to wear.

    1. Corey, I started this when Elle was 8. But I phased into it. I let Elle start to pick out a few items of clothing or a pair of shoes under a certain amount of money when she was younger. I think you could start doing small steps with Parker.

  3. OutsideTheBoxMom

    That’s a great idea to get the kids involved and have them learn/share financial responsibility. My best tip-get organized: take stock of what you have, make a list of what you need, know your price points, shop around/compare prices, and go shopping!

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