Back to School Clothes on a Budget
by Sherry Kyle
As a mother of teenagers, I’ve spent many years trying to make the budget stretch to outfit my four kids so that they look nice and feel good about what they’re wearing. It hasn’t always been easy to balance their needs and wants and make sure each one of our children is confident with their appearance, as well as being mother approved. We’ve had our share of power struggles. Why is it that my teen son wants his hair long, and my junior higher wants to wear cut-offs that are too short? Let’s face it. It’s tough being a kid, or an adult for that matter, in a world that judges worth on outward appearance. But as Christian parents, we know that how we dress isn’t only about clothes.
We also want to teach our kids the importance of godly virtue and what God thinks is important. As my kids grow into adults, I want them to know their hearts are more important than how they look on the outside. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
So what does God think is stylish? Colossians 3:12-17 tells us.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
These verses made such an impact on me that I wrote The Christian Girls Guide to Style, a book for girls ages 8 to 12 about the importance of being their best inside and out.
While we model how to be compassionate, kind, and gentle, among the other godly principles, we can also show our kids how to look their best by purchasing clothes that don’t break the bank. Consider these tips when shopping for back to school clothes.
Go through closets and drawers and find out what fits. Make a list of what your child needs. Bag the gently used clothes for Goodwill, and bring the list with you when you shop. If you’re like me and have a number of children, it’s a good way to keep track of who needs what before you purchase too much.
Decide on your budget before you go shopping. Talk with your child about how much money you have to spend and stick to it. If your child is old enough to carry a wallet and hand the money to the cashier, let them. They’ll learn the value of the dollar, how far it will go, and when it’s time to go home.
Don’t wait till the week before school starts! Avoid the crowds and the high prices by purchasing clothes a month before school starts to get the deals on the summer clearance or wait until October when the fall items go on sale. Another wallet friendly idea is to buy the clothes when your child needs something instead of paying all at once. Remember, there are school pictures, sports’ uniforms, among other things you’ll need to pay for once school starts.
Go to Goodwill or your local thrift store for bargains. Re-sale or consignment shops are a good choice, too. Go online and sign up for e-mails to receive coupons, and look for stores that have designer brands at affordable prices such as Ross or Marshalls.
Graciously accept hand-me-downs. Since going green is so important for our planet, why not recycle clothes, too? A fun idea is to have a clothes swap party. This is especially helpful if your child goes to school that requires a uniform. My daughter and her friends love to have sleepovers and give each other their clothes when they’ve outgrown them.
See a sale? Buy in multiples. If your child finds a pair of jeans that fit, buy two or three pair in varying shades of material. Come across a T-shirt your child loves? Purchase several in different colors. You’ll cut your shopping time and have outfits that will mix and match.
Splurge on one item your child will wear often, such as shoes or a jacket. Sometimes the most expensive items last longer and are worth every penny you spend, especially when you know you’ll get your money’s worth if your child wears it every day.
Don’t forget accessories. A few well-chosen pieces of jewelry will go a long way to make your child feel like they fit in, and won’t break your bank. For my teen daughter’s birthday this year I purchased a cute rhinestone frog pin I found at an antique shop, two pairs of dangly earrings and fun, brightly colored bracelets. There’s nothing like a little bling.
Your child’s confidence will soar when they feel good about how they look—inside and out.
Sherry Kyle writes books for girls, as well as novels that “reunite hearts and connect lives.” Abingdon Press released her debut novel, Delivered with Love, in 2011. Sherry is the recipient of a Gold Mom’s Choice Award that honors excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services for The Christian Girl’s Guide to Style. She is a member of CAN, as well as ACFW. Sherry and her husband Douglas have four children and live by the ocean on California’s central coast.