Seven Ways to Save on Back-to-School Clothes

Parents are cutting back on back-to-school clothing – recycling last year’s duds and wresting back control of spending decisions from their kids. The survey firm America’s Research Group (ARG) spoke with consumers in May and virtually no one was thinking about spending less for back-to-school. Now that figure is 24.2 percent. Over half of parents say they will try to get their children to wear last year’s clothes, and only 9 percent of parents expect to spend more on shoes this year – the lowest rating in eight years.

“When parents say they are not buying their kids new shoes, that tells you they are trying to scrimp as much as they can and stretch until the last possible minute, because obviously the kids’ feet are growing,” says Britt Beemer, CEO of ARG.

Of those parents cutting back, 52 percent said they are doing so because they have “less money” compared with 42 percent who said the same last year. Beemer’s survey also confirmed what the macro statistics show: Consumers are paring back debt. This year, just 29 percent of respondents cited “higher debt” as a big problem, compared to 41 percent last year.

Also, over the last three years, more parents have taking back control of spending from the kids, and are shopping at Target, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart rather than specialty stores, Beemer says. This year only 24 percent of parents — an all time low — say that their children would decide 60 percent or more of back-to-school spending. That figure was 30 percent last year.

“When penny-pincher parents take over, spending levels fall sharply and discount or off-price stores benefit,” says Beemer. He also expects more parents to buy on sale later in the fall, and make school clothing purchases holiday gifts.

Check out my recent Good Morning America segments on saving on back-to-school needs. Meanwhile, here are seven tips for saving on back-to-school clothing:

-Inventory your child’s closet, and see if she has some key pieces that can be the foundation of her back-to-school wardrobe. The basics might include two pairs of jeans, a pair of khakis or black pants, two button-down shirts, a sweater and a skirt or dress in basic colors.

-Spice up the basics with low-cost but colorful tee-shirts, tank tops and accessories like fashion scarves, tights, belts, and jewelry to stretch the basic pieces. (The nice thing is kids typically don’t grow out of accessories the way they do shirts and pants.)

-Look for summer pieces that can stretch into fall – for instance, a dress that can be paired with leggings and a sweater.

-Have your child “shop their closet” and mix and match some new outfits; take photos that she can tape inside her closet door to provide a clear picture of the new options and make the morning rush a little easier.

-Check if your state offers a back-to-school tax holiday, and shop that week.

-Invite friends over for a clothing swap. This works especially well for younger kids.

-Don’t forget to check eBay, craigslist, garage sales and vintage and consignment stores. Shop Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, H&M and Uniqlo for deals; if you do shop department stores, always ask if there’s a coupon behind the counter. Finally, look for coupons online before you shop by visiting the store’s web site or searching its name on Twittee. Also check out, and

How do you save on back-to-school clothing?