New YouTube Video: Shopping With Kids/Teens

Budgeting, Budgeting Tips, Parenting, Shopping Tips

Shopping for school clothes is a great learning opportunity to teach your kids and teens about managing their own money and making spending decisions! Using a Greenlight card allowed me to give them a budget and let them control their spending. Check out the new video plus more school shopping tips:

First I'll share my newest video from this Spring's shopping trip with some of my oldest kids. But below, I'll also link to some great videos from years' past where I also cover some money-saving hacks when it comes to shopping for school clothes and supplies! 

I'll show you how to make school shopping:

  • Fit into your budget
  • A whole lot less stressful
  • A good learning experience for everyone! It's a bit unconventional, but it works!

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However you look at it, if you are buying things when you NEED them, you are forced to pay the going rate, which is always too high. You should never pay full-price for anything!


Woman school clothes shopping from fun cheap or free
  • Be Patient – Just wait an extra month (ish) and the clothes are bound to go on sale as they clear things out for winter. I know this is hard for teens who want to look super fly the first few weeks of school. Maybe compromise by buying one or two new outfits (trying to use coupons and shop sales if at all possible), but otherwise wait for everything else.
  • Use Reason – Explain to your kids that everyone only has a few new outfits at school. By the end of the first month, everyone will be back to wearing their old stuff. And then your kids will waltz into school like a boss looking hip, new, chic, and oh-so-trendy. BAM. *Enter teenage excitement*
  • Buy Off-Season – If your child is old enough for school dances, watch for formal dresses OFF season. The same goes for sporting equipment, winter coats, and even seasonal shoes. Buy them during the opposite season and it will save you a ton.


All right all you control freaks out there (don't worry, I'm the president of the Control Freak club) brace yourselves. My best tip for this is to put your kids in charge! You heard me. The BEST way to make your life easier is to give them control and let them learn for themselves. This teaches your kids all the tools they need for adulthood and gets them to appreciate everything that they have.

What’s the best way to give them control? Give them the cash or a kids debit card and let them shop! Allow them to buy whatever they want for their school clothes, backpacks, shoes, accessories (anything they wear on their bodies). Here’s how we do it.

  • Set a reasonable budget (see next section for more info).
  • Pull it out of your bank account in cash (for us, this comes out of our Family Checking Account).
  • Give the cash to your child in an envelope.
  • Write the things that they should focus on finding on the envelope. 2 pairs of jeans. 2 pairs of shorts. 6 shirts. 1 sweatshirt. 1 jacket. 2 pairs of shoes. 1 backpack. Give them ideas on how to spend the money. You may have to be more or less specific depending on their age.
  • Drive them to a mall, go grab yourself a smoothie in the food court, and let them go at it. It might be hard to relinquish control, but I promise, it will be one of the greatest lessons they'll ever learn.


If your kids are too young to shop by themselves or if you haven't taught them how to shop responsibly yet (hurry and get on that, by the way!), then go with them to the stores. But make sure that you let them make the ultimate decisions. Have them make a pile of the clothes they've picked out, tried on, and like, and you guide them on how much to buy. By 8 years old, they should be able to make most of their decisions with some guided help from you. By 12 years old, they should be 100% capable of buying 100% of their own stuff. #RaisingCapableKids

You might need to give younger ones a little guidance by saying things like, “Ok great. You like this hoodie? Well, this is $15 which is most of the money you have left. Since you have a hoodie at home, wouldn't you want to look at the t-shirts instead since you still need 3 more of those? No? Ok, well that's your choice.” Ultimately take it child-by-child based on maturity, but allow them the opportunity to take control!


Young woman holding up a blue blouse from Fun Cheap or Free

If they lose the money, buy something that doesn't fit, buy things they don't need, blow it all on video games, or buy things that they decide they don't like 1 month later, TOUGH. LUCK. Just say, “Oh, well, we'll try again next year.”¬†Don't give in or bail them out!

If they want/need to return something, drive them to the store, park outside, and tell them to have fun. They will NOT get hurt by this experience, and figuring it out on their own will propel them more than you can even imagine! If they lose the receipt and can't return something, tell them to exchange it. Can't exchange it? “Darn, we'll try again next year” or “well, there's always Christmas, maybe you'll get money as your gift then and can use it for more school clothes.”

I promise putting your kids in charge is not mean or cruel in any way. My parents did this to me when I was young. I learned to talk to adults, fractions, to watch prices, to judge quality vs price, to shop sales, the value of stretching my dollar, how to return things, and how to be smart with my money. And I gained a LOT of confidence. While I'm not perfect and still have lots to learn, look where I'm at today. That's gotta say something, right?!


Yeesh, this question is tricky. Mostly because it completely depends on your financial situation, and where you live. In Utah, we basically need an entirely separate wardrobe for winter. In California, my husband bought some clothes and was able to wear them all year. For these reasons, I really hate to get too specific, but I also know that's what many of you are desperately wanting (right??). So here you go (and please remember that this is a GENERAL range):

  • $200-$250 for a teenager
  • $100-$200 middle school
  • $75-$150 for elementary

Now, if you shop like I do, then that is more than what I would typically spend. I tend to buy things here and there throughout the year as they go on sale and fit it into my weekly budget. But, those are some guidelines to help, anyway.


Here are JUST A FEW of my go-to places to always find affordable clothing and school items:

  • Don't be afraid to buy used! Kid to Kid, Plato's Closet, and Uptown Cheapskate have great consignment clothes. It's a good way to get name-brands for cheap. Most of my wardrobe and my kids' wardrobes are from yard sales (see how to become a Yard Sale Ninja for my tricks).
  • Walmart. Love it or hate it, let's call it like it is. I bought my daughter a full-sized Disney Princess Backpack for $6. SIX DOLLARS! You can't beat that. Their clothes, shoes, hair accessories, and school supplies are also great deals.
  • Target¬†
  • Amazon. Their prices may or may not be the best. But with Amazon Prime, their 2-day shipping is great for last-minute shopping. And you can find ANYTHING on Amazon, which is great for those who live in smaller cities with few options.
  • The Children's Place. I find great deals there. Be sure to sign up for their emails for great in-store coupons (as explained in my “top 7 sales you should never miss” post)
  • Carter's – also a favorite for younger kids.
  • Forever 21¬†for your teen (and even Tween) girls (and guys!).¬†
  • Old Navy – their sales can be fabulous, especially at the outlets.
  • Nordstrom Rack is great for you high-end or name-brand shoppers.


Don't let the school fees hit your wallet all at once. Especially when it comes to extracurriculars, school can be very expensive! Here's how to space out all the costs.


pink ballet slippers and gym bag from Fun Cheap or Free

Add up what you paid for school fees, equipment, extra curricular activities, etc. last year (or estimate as best you can for the coming year), divide it by 12 (months in a year), and each month set that amount aside into a bank account for your kids for the next year. I recommend auto-drafting this into your family savings, or into a separate account for your kids.


Granted, your kids will outgrow shoes and clothes, that's understandable. But there are some things like instruments, sporting equipment, certain school supplies, and even backpacks and accessories (winter coats, too) that you can make last for more than 1 year to space out your dollars a bit.


In high school, my parents let us choose between a yearbook, a letterman's jacket, or a class ring. They said they'd buy ONE for us, and anything else we wanted we had to buy ourselves. Suddenly that jacket wasn't such a priority for me when it was coming from my own wallet. Same with school dances. I had to buy my own dresses and pay for my own dates, but my parents gave me money for pictures (because they wanted copies for themselves). Don't feel like you have to buy everything, because you don't have to!


Don't reinvent the wheel! There are a BAZILLION websites, articles, blogs (..ahem…like this one…nudge…nudge…) that can help. Use them. For example,¬†this is a great article¬†(and great site in general)¬†to help you find back-to-school freebies, especially for those in a tough financial situation. She also has a great post of the best teacher freebies! She really shows lots of resources that I never knew existed. This is especially helpful for those who are in tough financial situations. Don't feel like you have to do it all on your own. Read her blog and learn ways to help you through this tough time!


One great resource that you should always take advantage of? COUPONS. Whether it's for haircuts, clothes, school supplies, or even school uniforms, look for a coupon before buying anything! To find coupons: Check your mail – junk mail might not be junk! Google “coupon for ___” or “coupon code for ___” online before buying. Search stores' websites. For example, if you like to shop at Target, be sure to go online first and print out their coupons.


Person playing guitar, from Fun Cheap or Free

I'm talking musical instruments, sports equipment, even text books. Buy used when at all possible. Play It Again Sports is a great place to buy and sell gently used sports equipment. I like to check my local classifieds like or for Utah/Idaho. Facebook Marketplace and Buy, Sell, Trade groups are also a great place to find used items.


Be creative and DIY when you can. Teacher gifts? Oh, for heaven's sake, PLEASE don't spend an arm and a leg! Trust me, I am 110% the biggest fan ever of teachers. But does that mean you need to run out and spend $25+ per teacher on gifts? Um, no. Get creative, thoughtful, and genuine with teacher gifts, and you will be able to come up with something incredible for very little! I came up with a list of some fun teacher gift ideas that are all unique, adorable, and yes, affordable.


I have three more YouTube videos from previous years' school shopping experiences if you're looking for even more inspiration and advice! Check them out here: 



So there you have it! Just remember, you are doing your kids NO favors by giving them everything they want, regardless of their age. I have 6 kids. It's OK to say no to them, even if tantrums insist! Delayed gratification and patience are the two major things our new generations are lacking (my generation included), which has led to the downfall of this economy. Your kids will not DIE if they don't have all the hippest and greatest RIGHT NOW. They won't be shunned at school if they don't have 5 pairs of new shoes. They won't have a harder time making friends if they aren't wearing the nicest brands.

Spoiler alert: making friends is more about personality and kindness than it is about brands and style. Teach your kids to love themselves regardless of the shell they are wearing, and I promise, they WILL get farther in life and WILL be more successful than the rest. Confidence is more valuable than any brand on the market. *Climbing off soapbox* Now, get out there and do some shopping! GOOD LUCK THIS YEAR! You might just need it.

Backpack with words: "Back to school shopping on a budget" from Fun Cheap or Free

Have any other great tips for school shopping with kids? I'd love to hear them in the comments! 



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