How to refresh your family’s back-to-school wardrobe

Cooler temps may mean it’s time to update your family’s closet. Six ways to make sure you & your kids go back to school in style.

It's almost time to put away the bathing suits and pull out the fall flannel. But if your family’s closets are still filled with last year’s (now-too-small) styles, it might be time to update your apparel options. Fortunately, a creative approach and a little tech help from some online options can help the whole fam enter the season fashionably – and with minimal strain on your time and budget. Here are six ways you can get creative with your seasonal shopping.

1. Buy (and sell) gently used

The first step to purchasing for the new season is to start by purging the old from the closet. A good rule of thumb: If it hasn’t been worn in two years or if it doesn’t fit, time to dump it. Consider selling gently-used clothing, shoes and even bags and jewelry at online consignment sites, such as MyKidsThreads, Kidizen® or ThredUp®. With easy shipping processes and the ability to do it all from home, you can actually save time while getting rid of old stuff (and the extra cash from the sale can help pad your budget for new items).

Also consider consignment for filling the closet back up—what’s old to someone else is still new to your family, so it’s worth perusing the offerings. You may be able to find that awesome pair of jeans (that are actually distressed) that your daughter is looking for without having to trudge to the mall. If you don’t see anything interesting online, check out your local options or national chains such as Plato's Closet® or Buffalo Exchange®.

Helpful hint: You can really cash in on ridding yourself of all of your old items if you sell them in person (and time your thrift store visits correctly). Certain stores feature half-off days, which can bring in a bigger crowd looking for great threads at a great price—a perfect opportunity for you to sell your items.

2. Host a clothing swap

Turn stressful shopping into an event by hosting a clothing swap. Clothing swaps are a great way to find that perfect new work ensemble for you or new gear for your kids who need some updated back-to-school outfits.

Ask your parent friends to bring gently-used pieces of clothing or accessories their kids no longer want. You can make it a free-for-all or give everyone a token for each piece of clothing they bring. Then you exchange tokens for new pieces you want out of the pile of contributions.

You can even get the kids involved by letting them pick out their own outfits from the clothing swap. It’s fun for everyone, way better than maneuvering through fitting rooms, and you don’t even need a babysitter—triple bonus.

You can also add a charitable angle by donating any unclaimed clothes to organizations like Dress for Success® or Goodwill®.

Helpful hint: Many cities, towns and charities host their own clothing swap. For example, the annual Philly Swap takes place at Philadelphia’s Greenfest and Grow NYC offers Stop'N'Swap community events six times a year throughout the city. You can also check out The Swap Team — an organization dedicated to setting up swaps and donating extra clothing to local charities—and sign up to receive updates on local swaps near you.

3. Give kids a budget

Use back-to-school shopping as the perfect time to start teaching your kids about how to budget. Determine how much each child will be receiving for back-to-school shopping and then have them write a list of what they need and what they want. For example, they may need new sneakers because their feet grew two sizes over the summer, but they may want the latest trend in graphic tees.

The needs list should take priority, but empowering them with a budget, lets them have some control over deciding where and how to spend it. It also starts them off on the path to learning budget-conscious shopping habits, like comparison shopping and sales and coupon consideration. Financial education apps such as FamZoo® and Piggybot™ can help you and your kids keep track of their back-to-school allowance and help your kids think through how they intend to spend it.

Helpful hint: Have your kids present their shopping list and budget breakdown to you so that you’re all on the same page about what they plan on purchasing. Also be sure you tell your kids that you reserve veto power, just in case.

4. Opt in for the small box

Big box stores may have lots of options, but to find something truly unique, consider a clothing subscription box service. Most of these companies offer a monthly subscription that gets you a handful of new pieces and accessories each month. You simply fill out a style profile that best describes your or your kids’ style and a stylist will hand select each piece according to your profile. You pay for and keep anything you want and send back anything you don’t want.

While one of the more popular options, Stitch Fix®, is great for the adults in your family, there are a number of subscription options for kids as well. Check out Kidbox®, Mac and Mia and Rockets of Awesome®.

Helpful Hint: A box of clothes showing up on your doorstep is pretty convenient, so make sure you actually like the clothes—not just the idea of how they got there. Consider asking yourself “Would I buy this if I saw it in the store?” If the answer’s no, it’s probably time to drop the return in the mail and start looking for something you like better.

5. Consider a capsule wardrobe

This one’s for you: feel like you wear about 20 percent of your wardrobe? Maybe it's time to experiment with the capsule wardrobe.

The capsule wardrobe should feature approximately 30 pieces, including shoes. These pieces should be high quality, stylish (at least to you) and able to be mixed-and-matched for a variety of outfits. Some of the pieces will get swapped out for weather-related reasons, but keeping your wardrobe tight not only encourages some creativity, it helps you focus less on the pressures of label shopping and more on what you feel comfortable in. Bonus: with fewer choices, you’ll have more time in the morning to get your kids dressed, fed and out the door.

Helpful hint: Find inspiration on sites like bemorewithlessthecapsuleprojectstylebee™, and by following the #Project333 hashtag on Instagram.

6. Watch for sales (especially online)

It goes without saying that sales are always the best time to go shopping, and with back-to-school being about as big a retail holiday as the actual holidays, now is prime time to have your eyes and ears open for storewide discounts at your favorite spots.

Labor Day will also undoubtedly bring discounts, which means it’s a good idea to research your and your kids’ wardrobe needs now so that you can blitz a lot of your shopping during a sale.

Helpful Hint: Make sure you’re on the list—the mailing list. They may be annoying but sometimes you can find out about sales and promotions through email. Also try browsing your favorite online stores in private browsing mode so you can snag those “sign up now for 10% off your first purchase” offers.

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