If you remember back to when you were a child, you can probably feel the newness of receiving new school clothes in September right before the school year started. Maybe you went out with your parents and were allowed to pick out a few staple items for the year that included jeans, shoes and a new jacket. These new school clothes brought you much pride and chances are you do the same thing now for your own children. Each year on the first day and throughout the first week of school, children are proudly wearing the newest fashions right off of Disney Channel and entering the silent game of keeping up with Jones’s and trying to save face. Fast-forward a few weeks and most of these clothes are sitting in the back of the closet, as options that are more comfortable become the favorite. Even worse, is that many parents and children go out and send hundreds of dollars buying their children school clothes with the optimism that they will feel accepted and in-style. If there ever was an argument for school uniforms, this pre-school year shopping could be it!
First, remember that we are in distressing economic times. Spending a fortune on clothes that will be lathered with paint and glue in a few weeks is really not worth it. If you have older children, then certainly you have noticed (but forgot) that comfortable jeans with tasteful holes and a favorite t-shirt become the normal attire. Sure, the well-crafted outfits that match and have the best brand labels may seem like the thing to do at the start of the year, but chances are they will be given away or yard-saled. Also, rather than spend a fortune on clothes all at once, allow your children to have a spending limit. This way, they can decide whether the designer label jeans are really worth being their one and only new school year purchase. This teaches children about the value of money and the bogus nature of buying brand named clothes.
Many of you probably remember when a great pair of new school shoes was all you got. Combined with a new binder, some paper, and crisp pencils, you were set. Today, the school shopping list for most schools details a variety of items that can include everything from dry erase markers to flash drives. All of these purchases whether on sale or not can add up to lots of money. For the household with more than one child, school supplies alone complete with hand sanitizer and paper towels can be over $150 per child. If this is a struggle for you, you may want to consider talking to your child’s teacher to see if you could space out your purchases. After all, 35 3-pack rolls of paper towels seems like plenty for one classroom, but come Christmas time or after, they are bound to run short.
Another realization that you may not remember when it comes to buying school clothes for children is that your children are going to grow. If you load up on great fitting clothes, there is a possibility that before January approaches, many of the items won’t fit anymore. Then you are left with 5 pairs of pants, plenty of shirts and leather Sperry shoes that have been barely worn and are no longer useful. Rather than get everything all at once or force your child to roll their jeans and tuck oversized shirts, buy just a few items at the beginning of the year. Then, space out your purchases or vow to buy one new piece of clothing for your child each week. This way, the clothes will progressively be bought larger in the same order that your child grows. Also, your child wont feel like they are wearing the same outfit over and over again and it will appear to their friends, that they are continuously getting new clothes. (Silly but important for pre-teens and teens)
You may be wondering what to buy. Back to school fashions are tempting. The new fall line-up is enticing. The latest styles are cool. You want your child to present themselves at school looking sharp and well groomed. You also want your child to feel good about themselves. But be realistic. In schoolrooms across the world, children are much more than what they are wearing. Making sure that your child has the nicest clothes or the brand named shoes that will get them accepted teaches them an awful lesson and passes down your own belief system. This isn’t to say that appearances don’t matter, they do! However, school should not be about style. School should not be about children buying their clothes at Wal-Mart versus those wearing Abercrombie. If you want the best of both worlds, take a stroll through many of the high-end thrift stores littered across your home town and find clean clothes with the labels or fashion sense you want. Put your kids on a budget and don’t be afraid to give clothes as birthday or holiday gifts throughout the year. Children need to learn that items like clothes cost money. If you are buying school clothes for your children, they should be involved in both the decision of what to buy and in being responsible for getting what they need. This will teach them good habits and help them to respect the things they do get.
Most of all, before you go school clothe shopping, search for sales and make sure that you have a complete and composite list of items that you must have (like under wear) versus items that are just considered novelties like a new purse. Try to get your children to pick out staple items like jeans and shirts that will match many things rather than cute outfits so they get more bang for their buck. Most of all, have fun and allow your children to have that feeling comparable to the ‘new car smell’ that only happens a few times in a lifetime.