Frugal Teen School Shopping

Ivy says:

I remember reading Amy Dacyzyn’s book The Tightwad Gazette many years ago. Amy herself had said people were tee heeing at her about what would happen when her kids turned into teenagers and started wanting name brand clothing and such. I tee heed myself, since my mom was never one to care much about name brand clothing, and I turned out to be a major clothes horse.

Finally, my mom sent one of her best dressed friends out shopping with me, and she taught me the joy of thrift stores and clearance shopping. Finally I was able to wear the name brand clothing that I so desired. By the time I was 16, I had gotten a job and spent all my money on clothes- I didn’t wear the same outfit twice my junior year of high school. Then we moved and I had to move all that clothing, and I realized more is not necessarily better.

Fast forward to now. I have a 14 year old son who also adores clothing. “I’ll only wear Abercrombie, Hollister, or American Eagle,” he says. Yikes. But I understand that, having been there myself as a teenager. What’s a frugal mom to do?

I gave him a set budget of what I could afford to spend on school clothing for him. He looked at me, appalled. That money wouldn’t go very far at his favorite stores. Then I suggested we go to Plato’s Closet first. Plato’s Closet is a high end consignment shop mainly aimed at the teen and early twenties set. What’s really cool about it is that you can sell the stuff you already have that no longer fits, you hate wearing, or otherwise don’t want anymore. And then you can buy more name brand, fabulous stuff.

My son was pretty happy with this arrangement. He’s funny about “used clothes,” as he calls them. But finding Abercrombie shirts for $7 quickly changed his mind about “used clothes.” He spent much of his budget there and then hit American Eagle and Hollister for the remainder.

What was cool about this was being able to teach him how to budget and get the most for his money. If he had bought full price clothing at his chosen stores and had never gone to the consignment store, he would have been able to buy very little, indeed. He saw that and made his own choices- good choices.

Having a teenager is expensive, there’s no getting around that. But you can stay within what you can afford, if you just teach your kid to live within their means.


  1. Lisa on September 14, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    When I was growing up I got 4x hand-me-downs. I hated it and told myself I wont do that to my kids. Well.. I lied I guess. I have 3 boys, each 2 years apart. Right now 2 of the boys are almost the same size, I think give it 2 years and they will be the same. I have passed the clothes down through all of the boys and I also go to a second hand store for kids called Once Apon A Child. Its great, I love saving money and now turning in the 3rd childs clothing since we are not having anymore, so we get money back to get new clothes for the little one so he doesnt have ONLY handme downs. Plus I request clothes for kids birthdays and christmas’ because they are on toy overload!

  2. Judy on August 13, 2008 at 11:45 am

    We thrift too…. my 10 yo ds was so proud of himself for finding $90 sneakers for only $7!!! (And they were still in good shape, too!)

    We’ll have to do some BTS shopping over the next couple of weeks. On Mondays… which is the day our thrift store has everything at 25%off. 😀

  3. Cheryl on August 12, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    When my son was in college, he basically wore jeans and tshirts at all times. He wanted tshirts with “oldie” sayings or bands / music on them. I went straight to Salvation Army and easily found stuff that fit his requirements. An added bonus for me was the bands and music that he thought was ‘old’ was actually stuff I thought was cool!

  4. JimK on August 12, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    The beauty of this is not only that he gets his brands for your budget, but that you’ve imparted an important lesson about consumerism, budgeting, etc. Kids with that kind of fiscal grounding don’t end up butt-over-tea-kettle in debt later on in life.

    Such a simple way to teach such an important lesson. Sounds like excellent parenting to me. 😉

  5. Angela on August 12, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I took my son shopping for school clothes for the first time this year. Usually I leave him home and just shop for him. He is going into third grade and well had a blast. He gets lots of his uncles clothes (they are 8years apart) which saves us tons. His uncle is all about name brand clothes. My son then gets the more exp. stuff for free and then we go to Old Navy, Gap, and Childrens Place for the rest. We found some great deals and well, it works out for us.

  6. ScrappyQuilter on August 11, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I have two high school juniors, 1 high school freshman and 1 college sophomore this year. We did the same thing you did and hit plato’s closet. We went three times during the summer so there were more chances we could have 100% “used clothes”. I sure do miss the days when garage sales could cover all our needs!

  7. The Mrs. M on August 11, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I have a just turned 15 year old, although he’s not my “child” but my brother whom I have full custody of. I’ve totally turned him onto Plato’s as well as a similar place in my town called Planet Exchange. TJMaxx and the like are good as well. We scored AE jeans there last week for $20!! Hoodies for 15-20, t’s and polos for $9-15.

    I’m bout as frugal as they come!

  8. Kacie on August 11, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    That’s an excellent idea! I think that teenagers are absolutely ready to have a set budget and figure out how best to make their purchases. Way to go!

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