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October 30, 2014

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Tips for saving on your kids’ back-to-school clothes (and your own)

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Leila Navidi

Dianne Lommason takes three of her daughters back-to-school shopping at Target in Las Vegas on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. From left is Jordan, 16, Camryn, 9, and Kristyn, 11.

Shopper’s tip

Give stores your email address. Department stores such as Kohl’s and JC Penney regularly send deals to email subscribers and keep them updated on sales. Lucky Brand Jeans and Cotton On offer a discount code to people who sign up with an email address.

August means summer heat, the end of a three-month vacation and ads preparing you for back-to-school shopping.

Every year, catalogs and fliers feature new clothing trends and promise a successful and fashionable year if you buy the right first-day outfit.

The ads can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start or how to avoid spending your summer savings on a new wardrobe.

But there are ways to save ­— and even make — money when back-to-school shopping, and look great while doing it.

Step 1: Declutter

• Clean out your closet. Donate the sweater you got for Christmas and never wore, and the jeans you said you’d wear if you lost 10 pounds.

Separate your clothes by color, season or occasion so they are easier to navigate. That will give you a good idea of what you have and what you need.

• Sell it. If you no longer want a piece that’s in good condition, sell it to a secondhand or consignment shop. Plato’s Closet (platoscloset.com), for example, outlines needs and trending items online.

Shopper’s tip

Check the Internet for coupons and promotions. Sites such as DealCatcher and the Bargainist compile lists of all the stores having sales. Apps such as RetailMeNot offer free coupons to use in store and online.

Or hit the Web yourself to put your clothing up for sale. There’s Craigslist and eBay, as well as regional Facebook groups that act as online garage sales. The app Poshmark allows you to buy and sell clothes from your smartphone. Find brand-name purses, shoes, jeans and more at up to 70 percent off retail prices.

• Swap it. If selling your clothes isn’t an option, host a clothing exchange party with friends and family. Bring clothes you no longer want and have your friends do the same. The swap allows you to trade for new duds without spending a penny.

Just remember to bring clothes that are clean and presentable. Your friends don’t want your old white shirt with pizza stains.

Step 2: Shop

• Brainstorm your wardrobe. Think out outfits and possible combinations before buying new pieces. Take pictures of your clothes before you go shopping, and make a list of items you may need.

For instance, if you have four great skirts but no blouses to match, take pictures of the skirts to help you find a coordinating top. Being aware of what’s in your closet can help avoid buying duplicates and pieces you don’t need.

• Go timeless. Beware of trends and highly stylized items that you might love now but will hate in a few months. Before you invest in that neon romper, ask yourself, “How many times will I actually wear this?”

Instead, invest in pieces that can carry you from season to season — basic T-shirts, a great pair of jeans and a good jacket. Bonus: These items often go on sale during summer clearances.

• Do the math. Calculate the value of an item by comparing its cost with the number of times you predict you will wear it. A $200 black blazer might be a better buy, if you wear it every weekend, than a $60 faux fur skirt you’ll wear twice. Spend money on quality pieces that give you the most bang for your buck.

• Go thrift shopping. Buying vintage clothing is a great way to get a new wardrobe at a wallet-friendly price. Even better, stores such as the Salvation Army and Epic Thrift have special discount days and offer student discounts.

Use sites such as Pinterest to revamp clothes. Add lace trim to the bottom of a grey sweater or patches to a denim jacket to create new, one-of-a-kind looks.

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