Back to School Shopping With Kids - Top 10 Tips For Parents

I recently went shopping for back to school clothes with my three young kids in tow. Sound crazy? Perhaps it was, but I was a woman on a mission. As insane as it may seem to take your kids along with you while picking out clothes for the season, it actually makes things easier and more efficient as you’re able to size things on the spot.

Determined to get the job done in the face of potential adversity (three kids all wanting their own “stuff”), I soldiered on. With a few main goals in mind, I loaded the kids into the minivan and hit the road.

Now: as a word to the wise, I did have a few things in mind before doing the deed. Back to school shopping can be stressful to say the least, so being prepared was paramount to my success.

As the first day of school looms, here are some proven tips for back to school shopping with kids.

1) Make a List - Take inventory of what your child has already, what she needs and what can wait. Go through her closet and drawers together so that you have a full understanding of what needs to be bought and replaced, or what can last for yet another season. You may be surprised to find that what seemed like a huge shopping expedition is actually not the case and that you only have to replenish or add to your child’s wardrobe minimally.

Make a list, check it twice.

2) Set a Budget - “Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know!” If you’ve ever uttered these words to your kids, then you know what I’m talking about. As parents, we’re all watching our bank balances to make sure that we’re on target. While it’s important to know what your limitations are in terms of back to school spending, it’s equally as important for your kids to be aware as well. Letting them know what to expect and the amount that will be purchased will alleviate pressure when you’re actually in the store, picking out the clothes.

Make a budget before shopping for back to school. 

3) Coupons, Savings and Rewards - Back to school may seem like a daunting and financially scary time for most parents but it doesn’t have to be. As a matter of fact, many retailers know just how apprehensive many of us parents get when the prospect of spending lots of money is presented to us as a fait accompli. By doing a bit of research, you can walk out of the store with your kids fully outfitted as well as with more money in your pocket than you anticipated. In my case, I shopped with my kids and was able to earn Air Miles Reward Miles on my purchase at Old Navy, so I a was actually ahead of the game. Do your research, plan your shopping trip and save. Oh - and don’t forget to check the Clearance rack too!


Use Air Miles and similar rewards to save money and get more for your dollar

Clearance rack

Always check the Clearance rack first. Always.

4) Go Where You Know - Go where you know. If there’s a particular store where you know that you can great great value and all of the items that your child needs, go there. Why waste time browsing in so many other stores, particularly when you have small kids in tow? Time is at a premium and tempers are often short when it comes to little ones. My kids and I are big fans of Old Navy and as a result, we do much of our shopping there. Do your research choose your destination and get shopping!

Old Navy statuettes

My kids love the doll statues at Old Navy 


5) Get the Classics
 - Sure - trends are great and your child may try to convince you to purchase the latest neon-coloured jacket or similar fashion trend. While indulging your child is okay to some degree, remember that she likely won’t like this same jacket a couple of months from now. Buy items in classic or neutral colours that can be mixed and matched. Examples include greys, navy blues, browns and beiges. The great thing about clothes in these colours is that they can be easily “spruced up” with more exciting options.

boys clothing

Fashion for boys has sure come a long way, hasn’t it?

6) Splurge a Little - And by “splurge,” I mean let the kids get one or two things that are a bit trendy. Perhaps it’s that neon-coloured shirt that they must have or those sparkly shoes that will make a real statement during the fall season at school. By letting the kids exert a little bit of control over what they want, you’ll have more willing and compliant shoppers during your outing, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for?


A sparkly shoe splurge - my daughter picked out these beauties!

7) Mix and Match - Remember to purchase items that can be easily mixed with both newly bought clothes as well as those existing garments that remain in your kids’ closets. It’s really all about planning and thinking through the various combinations of clothing that will get your children through the season. As suggested in point #1, making a list will help you get focused as well as visually organizing your child’s wardrobe. If you’re particularly enterprising, do it digitally! Make a digital folder on your laptop or tablet that includes pictures all of your kids’ clothes and potential combinations. Take it along with you when you’re shopping and - voila! You’re done.

Old Navy t-shirtOld Navy CardiganOld Navy Jeansdress

8) Don’t Forget Footwear - Back to school shopping doesn’t just mean clothing. It also includes footwear, including shoes, boots and more. It’s often hard to consider winter boots when the weather’s still nice outside but those sudden storms of late can make being unprepared particularly stressful. If you see a good deal on rain boots or winter boots, purchase them for your kids, along with the requisite back to school running shoes. Your kids won’t regret it next time they wake up for school only to see a full-force snow (or rain) storm in progress.

Old Navy boys running shoes

My twins scored with a pair of these runners that they picked out themselves.

9) Size Up - Yes - your mom was right. Buying clothes just a little bit bigger has its merits. If you’re able to stretch out a pair of shoes, a sweater or some pants beyond the immediate back to school period, you’re ahead of the game. Now: a full two or three sizes up (I’m not kidding) may seem like a money-saving technique for parents but let’s face it - your child will be miserable schlepping around a huge sweater, or tripping over themselves in shoes that are way too big. That being said, us a half-size upwards as your guide and you’re effectively buying yourself some time before you have to purchase a new outfit or pair of shoes for your child again any time soon.


The shirt may be a bit big but we bought it anyway 🙂

10) Don’t Go All Out - It may be back to school time but you can exercise some restraint when it comes to spending. Yes - get the kids what they need for the immediate time ahead but hold back for things that can wait. If your kids are on a term/semester type of academic program then they may not have swimming or gym class until a few months into the school year. Score for you because you don’t have to buy them a new bathing suit or track suit that’s premium priced. Wait for a bit and save.

What are your best back to school tips and strategies? Have I missed some? Let me know in the comments section below!

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  1. aunt dar says

    Wow I’m glad I don’t have to go shopping for back to school anymore! Thanks for the memories lol

    1. Samantha says

      Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it? Kids grow up so fast 🙂