Back to school shopping is a rite of passage that moms and kids typically go through together, and for the most part, it can be a fun adventure. I have four kids (three now in college) and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed most of our August shopping trips for backpacks, cool pens, binders, gym shoes, and, of course, new clothes.
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But I’d be lying to say that every trip was a walk in the park. I have three daughters who, at one point, were all teenagers. Clothes shopping with three teenage daughters can be a challenge, on both the financial and emotional front. But with the right strategy and good planning, it can be a great bonding experience, as well. I still back-to-school shop with my girls, and I’ve managed to make it a mostly peaceful experience. Here’s how I survive back to school shopping for teens:
1. Set a budget
I let my girls know upfront how much they have to spend at least a good week before we venture out. That way they have time to plan and prioritize, look for coupons or deals for their favorite stores, and determine how to get the most for their money. Not only does this keep us from fighting at the point of purchase over a splurge that they “have to have,” it helps them learn how to shop with limits.
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2. Make a list and check it twice
I encourage my daughters to have an idea of what they want to shop for before we even think about heading to the mall. Do they need new jeans? A pair of wedges or sneakers? A white T-shirt? Or a lightweight jacket? This is a great time for cleaning out closets, taking a wardrobe inventory, and making a list of must-haves. It can be a lot more effective than just heading out to make impulse purchases or buy five brand-new outfits that go with nothing in their closets.
3. Shop before you shop
My girls love Pinterest and use it constantly, so before we shop, they create “back to school” Pinterest boards and pin styles and specific items they want to find. They also peruse fashion sites, check out fashion bloggers and flip through fashion magazines. Most girls are probably like mine — they want to create a wardrobe that’s somewhat trendy and in-style but with a little personal flare, as well.
4. Call in the troops
I think of myself as a pretty cool, stylish mom, but still — I’m “mom.” My daughters are not going to look to me for fashion advice 99% of the time. That can be an issue when they’re standing in front of a mirror, wondering if this dress is too long or that shirt is too tight. Rather than stand there with them for 30 minutes while they take selfies and send them to 10 friends, I’ve learned it’s helpful to have them invite a friend or two along who can give them peer-to-peer fashion advice on the spot.
5. Create a plan of attack
Nothing drives me crazier than driving all over town without a plan. The night before our shopping day, I take a few minutes to sit down with my girls and determine our route. Are we going to this mall first or that one? Kohls or Target? TJ Maxx or Marshalls? It takes a very short time to map out our route, but it saves me so much driving the next day, not to mention my sanity.
6. Plan a non-shopping activity for the day
Even if you’ve budgeted and prepared for a shopping trip with your teenager to the best of your ability, chances are good there will be “moments.” Conflict is normal and shopping can be stressful, especially if your kids try to push limits, choose styles you don’t approve of, or make purchases you want to roll your eyes at. For this reason, I always plan a neutral activity — something that lets us get out of shopping mode for a bit and just enjoy each other. This might be lunch at a swanky café, a movie or a show, a mani-pedi, or maybe a makeover at Sephora.
7. Give her some freedom
Ultimately, you want to raise an independent daughter who’s a savvy shopper on her own, right? When your teenager is old enough (and you’re the best judge of that), give her some cash and a few hours and let her shop on her own or with a friend for a while. I started doing this when my girls entered high school, and I would challenge each of them to see how much bang they could get for the bucks I gave them. It was almost a game at first, and they appreciated the freedom to shop without mom once in a while.
Shopping with your teenager doesn’t have to be a battle — it can be a fun, productive, and rewarding experience. Just plan and prepare in advance, and you’ll be much more likely to purchase peacefully with your little fashionista.