Back to School Shopping {…for $125 per kid!}

As a kid, there were few things I loved more than back to school shopping with my mom.  Each year, she would give me a budget and let me go crazy, but I quickly learned that blowing it all on outrageous shoes would leave me rocking the same shirts, skirts, and jeans that I wore the year before.  So I started to pick up some strategies that helped me stretch those precious dollars.  I found sales…I clipped coupons…I made a plan.  And I always wound up bringing home bags and bags of clothes and shoes {on a very small budget, mind you} that lasted me all school year long.

Now that I’m the mom, I love back to school shopping more than ever.  There’s just something about picking out those sweet outfits that my kiddos will wear on the first days of school that makes my heart sing.  But you better believe I am still sticking to those shopping techniques now more than ever!  Each year, I set a budget, and I make sure to stick to it.  And I have to say – this year it was ridiculously easy with help from our sponsors at Tanger Outlets Houston!  Here’s my top five tips…

Back to School Shopping Tips:: Photo Credit – the lovely Heaven & Honey Photography ::

1. Make a plan

First thing is first, do not…I repeat…do NOT go into Back to School shopping blindly.  That is the easiest way to blow your buck, and chances are – you will end up with a bunch of junk your children simply don’t need.  Instead, make a plan, and be sure to include when you’re going to shop, where you’re going to go, and of course – how much you’re going to spend.

For me, I knew that I had a very limited budget this year – just $125 per kiddo for clothes, shoes, and other miscellaneous items that they needed. So of course, I decided to drive out to Tanger Outlets located just south of Houston where I knew I could make that happen.  The night before, I scoped out their website, researched sales, and even printed a map so that I could form a solid plan.  Those few minutes spent on the computer always help me to save countless dollars {and precious time!} in the long run.

2. Find coupons

While making a plan, be sure to also check out any and all coupons that may be available.  This includes store coupons, manufacturer coupons, mobile coupons, etc, etc, etc…  You will be AMAZED at how many ways there are to save.  It just takes a little bit of time and research beforehand – but the money left in your wallet will make it SO worth it.

Now, I’m no extreme couponer, but to achieve my goal of staying under budget, I definitely tried to gather as many coupons under my belt as I could.  I printed off a few store coupons that I could find online, I made sure my favorite money saving mobile apps were ready to roll, and I stopped by Shopper Services for some exclusive coupons and offers.  Of course, I saved these for my bigger ticket items – and they saved me lots of cash!

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3. Use gift cards

If you’re like me, then you probably have a handful of random gift cards floating around in your purse.  Some may have just a few dollars left hanging on them, some may be fully loaded and ready to shop, and some you may have totally forgotten about since last Christmas.  Whatever the case may be – now is the PERFECT time to use those up, so dig around your purse a bit and be sure to incorporate those stores into your plan.

This year, I managed to use a $10 Gap Rewards gift card on clothes for my daughter, a random gift card with $15.83 left on it for my Famous Footwear purchase, and a fully loaded $50 gift card to the Disney store that I used to let my kiddos each pick out a toy and shirt for being such rockstars on our all-day shopping trip.  Add that up, and it’s over $75 that didn’t have to come out of my budget.  Yes, please!

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4. Think purposefully

Okay, so here is where it gets tricky…  You see, when us mamas start shopping, we oftentimes get wrapped up in “the cute.”  You know – “Oh, those neon yellow flip-flops are sooo cute.” or “Ah!  That chiffon dress is just the cutest.”  The only problem?  Your son isn’t allowed to wear flip-flops to elementary school – not to mention, he doesn’t have anything in his closet that matches neon yellow.  And while that chiffon dress may look cute on the hanger, it won’t look cute when your daughter comes home covered in dirt and paint after her first day of preschool.

So instead of thinking cute – think purposefully.  What do your children already have?  What do they still need?  And of course – what is the school dress code? {Because I guarantee that there is one!}  For me, I knew that both of my kiddos were in need of shoes…close-toed shoes to be exact.  I also knew that both of my kiddos needed clothes that were easily mixed and matched – another great way to stretch that dollar!

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5. Stick to your budget

And this, my friends, is where it gets easy…  If you follow all of the suggestions above, and especially if you opt for shopping at Tanger Outlets Houston this Back to School season, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to stick to your budget!  If needed, you can always keep a running tab on your phone’s calculator as you go store to store, but you will be surprised at how quickly it DOESN’T add up if you just spend a little bit of time preparing and really shop smart.

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Please Note :: While this may be a sponsored post, all tips, tricks, and advice are strictly my own!

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