How to Shop for Teens: 13 Easy Steps

How to Shop for Teens: 13 Easy Steps
Written by Oana Schneider

School age kids quickly grow into tweens and teenagers before parents know it. When they’ve outgrown their kids’ clothes, when they’re going back to school or when they simply need new items to be added into their wardrobes, how should you, as a parent, cope? How do you make sure that you get your teenage kid all that he or she needs without overspending?

How can you make sure that you will not get coerced into buying all the trendiest clothes, especially if you have a daughter who’s a budding designer or a son who dreams of being a rock star? Here, we will take a look at the dos and don’ts for parents who are shopping with their teenage kid.

Before that, let’s take a quick look at some statistics on how much parents actually get to spend when going shopping for their kids:

  • According to the National Retail Federation’s 2014 Back-to-School Survey for 2014, the average family with kids in grades K-12 will spend almost $670 on shoes, apparel, supplies and electronics. This is up 5% from 2013.
  • For the same NRF survey, the combined spending for those who are back to school and are going to college will reach $74.9 billion.

When it comes to buying decisions, 9.7% of parents admit that their child influences 100% of what they buy for back to school stuff. Around 35% said that at least half of their purchases are influenced by their kids. It’s also interesting to note that kids keep one eye on social media and retailer’s websites when looking for new, exciting items to add to their back-to-school gear.

What to Do When Shopping with a Teenager

Now, if you’re the parent of a teenager and you need to go shopping for back to school clothes, or just new items to update their wardrobe, you do not want to spend any more than you have to.  To give you an idea about how to make your shopping trip a lot easier on yourself and on your pocket when taking your teenage kid with you, here are a few of the things that you can do:

Do make a shopping list

Before heading over to the mall to buy clothes or to the store to buy school supplies, make an inventory of what your kid has first. Does your daughter need a couple of pairs of denim pants which she can wear to school? Does your son need t-shirts because the ones in his closet are already full of holes? Or maybe you have tweens who need school supplies?

To make sure that you will not go over budget, make a list of the things that your kid actually needs. Make your list as detailed as possible. If your son need half a dozen t-shirts, write that down. While shopping, stick to your list so you won’t go over budget.

Do buy something that your teenage kid loves

When you go online for tips on what to buy for your teenage kids or when you ask the advice of other parents, you might stumble upon this gem of an idea that you should only stick to the basics. Although there’s nothing wrong with spending money on the basics, if you know that your kid would not wear it, do not waste your time and money on the item. Even if your best friend who’s also a mom swears that all teenage kids should have a white button down shirt, still check if your son or daughter will actually wear it.

How to Shop for Teens: 13 Easy Steps

Do stick to a budget

If the average family spends more than $600 on kids’ back to school apparel, shoes and school supplies, you can work around this amount, too. Never go over budget and don’t let your daughter charm you into buying her an expensive pair of designer sneakers just because here friends also have it, which leads us to the next tip which is that you should be firm when saying no.

Do be firm when saying no

It may sound silly but kids have a lot more than peer pressure to deal with these days. Social media posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by their friends might make them think that they need to have this and that item, but it is not necessarily true. It’s just part of their need to fit in. Reassure your teenage kid that there’s absolutely nothing wrong in using what your family can afford to buy, and be firm when saying no.

Do learn how to go comparison shopping

Teenage kids would eventually leave for college, so they might as well start learning how to shop on their own right now. When shopping for the items that they need, teach them how to compare prices. If one brand is cheaper than the other and there’s no difference with the quality, choose the lesser-priced brand.

Do leave the store when you’re in doubt

If you are not satisfied with any of the items that your teenage kid tried to fit in a particular store, do not hesitate to leave. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in taking your time in crossing out the items off your ‘to buy’ checklist. If you don’t like the fit, the quality or the price of the items, you might as well move on and find something that you do like.

Do shop out of season

When looking for school supplies, you will find things cheaper when shopping just as the current school year is about to end. It will also be less crowded in the stores, and you will have more items, and cheaper stuff to choose from.

Do check on the dress code of your kid’s school

When shopping for back-to-school clothes, do check first on the dress code of your kid’s school. This way, you won’t accidentally buy something that will leave your teenage kid feeling ill-dressed when going to school.

What Not to Do When Shopping with a Teenager

Next, what are the things that you should not do when shopping with a teenager?

Do not wait to go shopping until you absolutely have to

As mentioned earlier, it is better to buy off-season because you will have a lot of cheap items to choose from and you won’t have to deal with a crowd. But if you must shop at the same time that other parents and teenage kids do, never wait until the last minute. This will lead you to feel the pressure to buy everything you need all in one place, which may not give you the best value for your money. Give yourself at least a month prior to the start of school to start checking off items from your ‘to buy list’.

Do not buy something just because it’s on sale

If you stumble upon items which are on sale but are not included in your list, should you spend your money on them? Absolutely not! This is especially true for school supplies which can have that aged look when left in storage for a long time. The same holds true for clothes, unless your son or daughter feels pretty excited about it.

How to Shop for Teens: 13 Easy Steps

Do not splurge on trendy items

If you have a fashion forward daughter who knows every little trend on the runway, do not indulge her by buying pricey, trendy items. Trends do come and go and there’s no sense in spending hundreds of dollars on something that she will wear for just a few months. Once the trend passes on, you can rest assured that she will not put it on again, no matter how expensive – unless the trend comes back.

Do not be afraid to haggle

There are plenty of places where buyers are allowed to haggle. If you feel that you are not getting the best deal price-wise, do not hesitate to turn your back on the seller. Chances are, if you are being ripped off, the vendor will call you back and agree to the lower price that you are asking for. If you see some items which need alteration, do ask for a lower price. The same thing applies to items with a few imperfections.

Do not buy clothes which your teenage kid has not tried on

Finally, never walk out of the store with clothes that your kid has not tried on. Even if you swear that you know your daughter’s measurements by heart, a clothing item might not fit well once she puts it on. If a pair of pants fit perfectly well but is a little long, you can simply have the hem sewn or altered. Just make sure that the price is low enough for the alterations to be worth it.

If you need to buy CDs, books and other school items which are still perfectly functional even if they are not bought brand new, go to sites like eBay and Etsy. You can also check out the second hand items available on 

By learning about the dos and don’ts of shopping with a teenager, you can make the most out of your shopping trip, stick to your budget and have everything that your kid needs for school.

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.


  • Great ideas for shopping without overspending. My folks followed many of these tips themselves, especially refusing to splurge on trendy items (if I insisted, we always went for inexpensive stuff). I believe that if teens learn these habits early, they have a good foundation for their own shopping later on.

    • Absolutely. You make a really good point about teens learning these habits early and I would say they should manage their finances much better.

  • A lot of the items our teens need are bought in groups. Thankfully, they are not needed all at the same time. One son is a brand conscious. So, he waits til his “best” shoes are really worn out and used up. The other son, he’s alright with his reasonable simple choices. Winter camp (sponsored) is coming soon. I’ll just have to dig out form the wardrobe that have been hidden there. Hopefully, they’re not small for their size.

    Reviewing our shopping with teens, we do it once a year (Christmas). Although, we don’t have to.

  • Very useful reminder to all the parents out there. It is very important to know tips like this before you go shopping especially when you have number of kids.

  • I didn’t follow fashion growing up. My mom bought us 2 new outfits every school year from a big store and the rest was all used clothes which was fine for us. I still shop at Thrift stores today to save money as well.

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