Back to School Clothes - 4 Steps to a Creating a Budget for Kids


Buying back to school clothes creates the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about working with a budget.

In many parts of the country, kids are already back to school, but not in New Jersey. We still have a few more weeks to enjoy long days at the pool and summer nights eating ice cream and catching fireflies. In just a few short weeks I will be back to packing lunches and shuttling kids back-and-forth to sports practice.

One of the things I’ll need to do to prepare for the upcoming school year is buy new clothes. In previous years we‘d buy clothes here and there for the kids as we were out and about running errands. We’d be out at Target buying something we need for the house and wander over to the kid’s clothing section. One of my little ones would inevitably spot something “super cute” that they wanted me buy.

Even though the money we spent was within our budget, I had no context for the purchase. Do they really need this? Do they have something else just like this at home? Does it feel a void in their wardrobe?

When I gave in and got the kids what they wanted they were excited. When I said “No” they would moan and say things like, “You never buy me anything!”

I realized I was missing out on the opportunity to teach the kids about being intentional shoppers that live within a budget.

Last year we tried something new. While spending the afternoon in the city, we told the kids they would each be given $100 to spend on school clothes. It was up to them to decide what they were going to buy. When the money was spent, that was it, there would be no more.

At first, we had our doubts. Were they really up for the challenge? It was amazing how the kids rose to the occasion. They were thoughtful about what they purchased. They took their time and chose clothes they wanted. They didn’t spend all the money in one store either. My two younger ones spent their cash in two different stores. My oldest had about $20 left over and used it another day at another retailer.

Here are some easy steps to take if you want to give it a try:

  • Go through your kids’ clothes with them. What doesn’t fit? What’s missing, a classic cardigan that matches with everything or a go-to pair of shoes for dressing up? Make a list and go over it with your little ones so they know what to look for when they shop.
  • Decide on how much money to spend. Take a look at how much you have spent on the kids in years past and let that be your guide. If you are not sure how much that was, no worries! Figure out what you are willing to spend this year. It’s a good idea to be conservative at first. You don’t want to over spend; you can always increase your budget if needed.
  • Be intentional about shopping. Set-aside a specific time to shop with your kids. Pick the stores ahead of time too. This gives you the opportunity to collect any coupons that may be available or shop seasonal sales.
  • Show them how to track their spending. Once your children have made their purchases walk them through how much they spent, what’s left, and what was the average cost of each item?

My husband and I were so pleased with the experience that we will be doing it again this year only we will be changing it up a bit. We will be giving them cash, in an envelope on a quarterly basis, which will cover their clothing budget for the entire year.

It will be interesting to see the choices my little ones make this year. I wonder if they will spend all their money in one place or be just as thoughtful as they were last year.

What I know for sure is that I am looking forward to the day when the kids say’ “Mommy, can I get this?” I will be able to say, “I don’t know, is it in your budget?”.