How to Stick to a Back to School Budget

I’m excited to be working with Women and Co. right now on a a campaign to get moms talking about money. One of the challenges we were assigned was to give kids a spending budget for Back to School and see how they did! My girls were super excited to have their on VISA gift cards for our shopping experiment, but I was a little nervous about turning them loose.

What happens when they spend all their money but don’t have jeans or shoes or underwear?

To curb the fear, I split the gift cards up a bit. Each girl got $50 for her First Day of School outfit and whatever else she could buy. I set aside another $50 each to guide their spending. I retained full veto power on the 2nd gift card so if they still didn’t have shoes, I could say no to the jewelry purchase.

Giving each girl their own gift card allowed them a little more ownership of their back to school shopping. Typically, I spend about $100 per girl, but I’m the one budgeting and making final decisions. This time, it was all on them — and I think they were even more careful with their money.

Lorelai was mostly just thrilled to sign her name at the checkout. Brenia loved swiping her very own card and having “her own money” to spend on clothes. Stacia just wanted as many shoes as she could possibly purchase to wear with her new school uniform. Shoes are the only personality allowed at the new high school.

And, I want them to able to express their personality, but I also want to get plenty of clothes for their budget. We had to find that delicate balance between trendy and frugal. Each girl came away with outfits they love, a couple pair of shoes, and even a few accessories, so I think it was a win!

Here are 3 ways to help kids get what they want, on your terms:

  • Take Stock: Have the kids try on everything that still looks nice enough for school. We have a fashion show each season, making 3 piles: keep, pass to little sister, donate. Take stock of what still works, so you have less to buy. Take a look at your office supplies, too. You may already have many items on their lists!
  • Stick to Basics: For clothes and school supplies, sticking to basic items or neutral colors can save a bundle. Buy just one trendy item to pair with jeans. Use one fun binder, with inexpensive folders. Give kids the power to add just a little personality, while keeping to a more frugal purchase.
  • Mix and Match: Instead of buying several different outfits, I helped the girls pick a couple shirts that matched several pairs of shorts. They can mix and match to create 4-5 new outfits, out of just a few purchases.

All three girls ended up with purchases they can’t wait to show off at school. The teen started school last Wednesday. I’m pretty sure she’s worn a different pair of shoes ever since. The younger girls went back to school on Tuesday, and the only problem with their new clothes is choosing which outfit to wear each day!

If you still have some back to school shopping to do, here’s a chance to win some cash from Women and Co. I’m giving way 2 — yes, 2 — $50 Visa gift cards! Let’s talk money — leave a comment here to enter, and let us know how you save money for back to school. You can earn additional entries by:

For your extra entries to be counted, be sure to leave an additional comment directing us to your entry. Only one additional entry per method (i.e. While multiple tweets are appreciated it, only one will count as a drawing entry.) The contest runs until 8/30 at 11:59pm est. Two winners will be notified by email on 8/31 and receive a $50 Visa gift card. Winner will have 48 hours to complete the claim form or a new winner will be chosen.

I was provided with Visa gift cards by Citibank as part of the Women and Co. campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.


  1. says

    I shop at the resale shops to save money. My SIL has found an amazing one down near where she lives w/ excellent quality clothes at good prices. It works great for the girls…the boy (teenager) is harder to shop for. Doesn’t help that he likes NOTHING. lol

  2. FairytaleMoM says

    I’m now following @women&co (I already subscribe and all of the others).

    Budgeting back to school was more difficult this year than in years past, probably I’m the problem..

  3. says

    I save money by shopping the sales! I try to pay attention all summer to various items on sale and pick them up when I can. I also shop alot online and even our local Goodwill. I’m sure my kids get older I won’t be able to get away with Goodwill shopping, but since my son is in kindergarten I hate to send him in pricey clothes since he is doing lots of playing, painting and coloring.

  4. Carmen says

    I first shop our stash and then I watch the sales very carefully. But I only hit one store per week – the saving differences aren’t different enough to make up the gas expenditure for running all over town.

  5. Stefanie Gladden says

    I save money by using coupons and looking for the best deals online before I head to the stores!