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Monday, August 1, 2011
I'm taking our three foster daughters shopping today. School starts on the 24th, and the all-important "first-day-of-school outfits" must be bought!
School shopping can be extremely stressful - financially, emotionally and physically. Here are some tips I've learned along the way to reduce that stress:
1. Help your child (if age appropriate) go through his/her clothes and remove any that don't fit or that are otherwise not working.
2. Make a list of each retained clothing item, in categories: short-sleeve tops, shorts, jeans, etc.
3. Make a list of possible outfit matches, especially if you have girls. If you have boys, you should be very thankful clothing is much less complicated for them! Matches may present themselves that you or your child hadn't thought about before. (Keep this list to ease the stress of planning what to wear each day.)
4. Make a list of what is missing: a cute skirt with no top to match, for example. Don't forget socks and underwear.
5. Determine what store(s) might have most of what is on your list.
6. Determine a budget of what you will spend for back-to-school shopping for each child. Explain to your child that that amount is what they have to spend, so they will have to choose carefully.
This removes emotional stress. It is now up to your child to make the hard decisions, not you. This can work starting from late elementary school and upwards. We started in middle school with our own girls, but could have started earlier.
7. Finally, with list in hand, go shopping! If your child is impulsive, gently remind him/her about the priorities on the list.
All this preparation will hopefully reduce your physical stress - you know what you need and where you can get it. Endless and aimless wandering from store to store will not be a part of your life!
8. Determine a monthly clothes budget for each child. Our foster daughters get $60 per month to spend on clothes, $10 of which can be spent on non-clothes items. We gave our own daughters $75 per month back in the day - this included shoes, coats, underwear, everything. Determine what works for you.
Even though it seems like a big chunk of money going out each month, it's much less stressful than huge chunks going out randomly. And it reduces the stress in your child - he/she knows there is a certain amount of money each month for clothes. Hopefully, this will remove the "gimme, gimme, gimme" attitude that comes with not knowing when there will be money again for new clothes.
I feel that giving our girls a clothes budget is one of the best decisions we made as parents. It taught our daughters how to use money wisely, to comparison shop rather than buy the first thing they saw, and look for bargains. If they wanted to buy an expensive item, it was fine, but there was a cost to it. When there is an endless supply of mom and dad's money (or so they think), these lessons are not learned.
A clothes budget took the stress out of shopping for me. I wasn't the one having to make the choices, they were. If my girls bought impulsively or expensively, that was their choice. Over time they learned how to manage their money, to wait, to plan. When they went off to college, we felt they were prepared to manage their money well.
More on shopping/clothes: