Make a List

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You can leave you aspirin at home if you draw up a game plan before you hit the mall. Make a list of what your children need (and their sizes) and stick to it, just as you would when buying groceries. 


Window Shop

A week before you head out, ask your kids to do some “window shopping” by visiting the sites of their favorite stores. Then, visit some comparison shopping sites to search for the best prices on those items.


Try It Out; Take It Back

Frequent stores that have generous return policies. Kmart, Sears, Target and Walmart grant full refunds on clothes and shoes within 90 days of purchase. Gap and Old Navy give you 45 days to make up your mind.


Stock Up on Jeans and T’s First

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To entice BTS shoppers, casual-apparel retailers such as American Eagle and Old Navy traditionally slash prices from mid-July through Labor Day. Last year, American Eagle T’s dropped to $4 each, and pants started at $5, while Old Navy jeans sold for as little as $8 (that’s 60 percent to 68 percent off). Experts expect comparable sales this year. Shop at the end of August and you’ll not only benefit from the BTS sales but also can load up on clearance items (prices further reduced by an extra 30 percent to 50 percent).


Avoid the Crowds

Instead of braving the mall on a Saturday, select two weeknights to go shopping after dinner. You’ll face smaller crowds and be forced to get the job done before the mall closes.


Cash In on Your Student Status

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If you’re a student yourself, flash your student ID card. Club Monaco, for one, will lop 20 percent off full-price and reduced-price goods in its stores and online. (Enter your .edu e-mail address to get a coupon code.) J.Crew, Banana Republic and H&M take 15 percent off full-price items at the store. Retailers don’t always promote such discount, so be sure to ask. 


Hold Off on Some Shopping

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Kids can be fickle; a few weeks into the school year, when peer pressure kicks in, they’re bound to come home with a list of must-haves. (Especially once your child turns, say, 9, she’ll likely have a strong opinion on what to put on in the morning.) So buy just the essentials at the beginning of the season rather than everything at once; remember, there’s always going to be another sale. Insist that your kids leave the tags on their clothes until they’re about to wear them and make sure you hold on to receipts so you can easily return anything they have second thoughts about. Create a file that includes catalogs, sizes and wish lists so you can act if you find a sale while on your own.


Shop for Shoes at Walmart

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Walmart has a huge selection of kids’ footwear—more than 1,300 pairs of girls’ shoes alone, compared with 250 at Target—and its prices, among the lowest out there, generally beat Target’s, too. The cheapest girls’ sneakers we recently found were $15 at Target and $5.87 at Walmart.


Spruce Up Last Year’s Model

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Can’t talk your child into wearing those nearly new sneaks from last year? Spiff them up with patterned duct tape (on leather shoes) and fabric paint or a bleach pen (on canvas). Customize book bags, binders and lunch boxes with a similar overhaul, and transform a “boring” T-shirt into an “awesome” fashion statement by cutting the collar and fringing the bottom.


Consignment Shop and Clothing Swap

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Instead of heading straight to the mall, check consignment shops first. Unlike thrift stores that take whatever they can get, consignment shops are selective, and some of them cater exclusively to kids and teens. Have your kids weed through their closets before they shop so they can turn in their old clothes for cash to go toward new purchases. You can also set up a swap network with a group of friends: Before everyone goes shopping, gather at a pal’s house (or make a group on Facebook) to trade your kids’ outgrown clothes.


Hit Up thredUP

When it comes to your kids’ wardrobes, thredup.com is a one-stop mecca. The site pays you between 10 percent and 80 percent of the resale value of clothes, shoes and accessories (the higher the price, the better the percentage) your kids no longer want (or fit into). Use thredUP’s clothing calculator to estimate your payout. Start by ordering a Clean-Out Bag on the site, fill it with like-new items (no stains, pills or stretching) and ship it back for free. Use your windfall as thredUP credit and score previously owned items from more than 25,000 brands for up to 90 percent off—or cash out via PayPal.


Stick With Stores That Make Price Adjustments

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Many retailers, including Macy’s and The Children’s Place, will credit the difference if their price on an item drops within a certain period (usually 7 to 14 days). After you make a purchase, set a reminder to call the store before the offer expires. You also can download the free TrackIf app, which alerts you when your purchases go on sale.


Shop on a Tax Holiday

This year, at least 15 states will offer sales-tax holidays. On those days, you don’t pay tax on clothing, computers, school supplies or other items. Dates vary by state, so check taxadmin.org (search “tax holiday”) for more information.


Choose Fabrics That Can Take It

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Clothes made of 100 percent cotton are comfortable, but they tear easily. Instead, look for apparel made with a cotton-polyester blend. The material is breathable, durable, less likely to wrinkle and won’t fade in color—which means your kids can look good in whatever they’re wearing all year.