Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Can Shopping for Kid's Clothes Teach about Financial Literacy?

Twice in the past week I have noticed that my kids are once again out-growing their clothes.  My youngest child put on a pair of pajama pants that fit him last winter and now they look like Capri pants.  And then…one of my older boys reminded me that he needs new dress shoes.  I was a bit skeptical, until I realized that his current shoes were two sizes too small.  It’s kind of hard to argue with that.  It looks like we will be doing some shopping this weekend.

Shopping for kids clothes doesn’t have to be a budget buster.  In fact, there can be opportunities for your child or teen to learn and practice responsible financial management skills.

What to do with the “old” clothes:
  • Reuse:  Keep the outgrown clothes that are still in good shape for “hand-me-downs” for younger siblings.  Put them in a container and label it by size and/or season.  When your younger child suddenly needs new PJ’s or jeans, go shopping in your own garage.
  • Repurpose:  If jeans or pants still fit in the waist, cut them off and make shorts out of them.   My kids will occasionally have a favorite t-shirt that they just don’t want to part with.  These t-shirts make cute pillows for them to keep on their beds.  Or, old t-shirts and socks can make excellent dust rags or cleaning cloths.
  • Resell:  Clothes that are in good shape can be resold through consignment stores or yard sales.  If you are having your own yard sale, let your child be involved in pricing and selling the items. 
  • Donate:  Let you child help you gather and deliver clothes to donate.  Charities and Goodwill stores will usually take clothing donations.  You can also check with your local preschools or elementary schools to see if they need extra child-sized clothes to keep on hand for accidents.

Shopping for New Clothes:
  • Consignment stores:  You can often find great deals on clothing, especially jeans, jackets and prom dresses, in consignment stores.  It may take a little more time to find the right size and the selections are hit or miss, but the savings can be significant. 
  • Coupons:  Have your child look through the newspaper for coupons and sales papers.  Get them involved in comparison shopping.
  • Store credit cards:  Many stores offer discounts for using their own credit cards.  For example, Target gives you 5% off all purchases when you use their card.  This can be a great savings --- if you pay off the card every month without incurring any fees.  Talk with your teens about why you have certain cards and the benefits and/or risks of using credit cards.
  • Give your teen a budget.  As kids get older, they are often drawn into the lure of name brand clothing.  Using coupons and shopping at consignment stores can suddenly become "not cool."  When this happens, try giving them a clothing budget --- either monthly or seasonally.  Let them make decisions about what to spend their money on.  If they choose to use their entire budget on a pair of designer jeans and a name brand sweatshirt, then they will be wearing those several times a week.  As long as you don’t subsidize their budget so that they can continue shopping above and beyond the initial amount, they will learn to live with their choices and shop more frugally.

With just a little thought and planning, we can teach kids and teens to be thoughtful with their outgrown clothes and thrifty when purchasing new clothes.  Allowing them to practice these skills when they are young can reduce the chances of overspending when they are adults.

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  1. One thing I see in my teenage daughter is a good sense of value when it comes to shopping for clothes. She heads straight for the sale rack!

    1. That's awesome! My daughter usually does that too. However, my boys are another story. Still working on them!