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Back To School Shopping On A Budget – My Kohls Trip ($275 In Clothes for $54.65 + Tax!)

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We have been sharing back to school deals for the past month, but school is starting in the next few weeks so school shopping is really ramping up! We know that back to school shopping can be tough on the family budget, so we are starting 2 weeks of a Back to School Shopping on a Budget Series here at Thrifty NW Mom. We’ll be sharing our own shopping trips to give you ideas of ways to save in the stores, as well as finding the best deals online, and hosting giveaways for stores that you can get back to school clothing and supplies!

Saving at Kohls!

This week we are highlighting Kohls, since this is one store that personally I have been able to save a great deal on clothing for my whole family  on a consistent basis.

A big strain to your budget this time of year can be clothing. Especially if you have teens in the house. I had a budget of $50 to spend at Kohls, and challenged my 14 year old son to see if he could stretch that budget to get most of his clothing items, and he did it! He got over $200 in clothes for just over $50 out of pocket!

I wanted to share this trip with you, because he used many savings techniques that your kids can use too. I also wanted him to do the shopping (with my help), because it was important to me that he liked the clothes we purchased. The goal was not to get the most items for our money, but to get enough items to start him off for school, that he LIKED (hence would wear), within our budget. In the end he got 9 items for just over $50!

A couple of things to know about my teen son:

  • He uses coupons (ok, not all the time, but if there is a coupon available he will grab it. No shame in his teenage coupon game!)
  • He likes to wear sport clothing
  • He is a pretty easy going kid

We usually start off at the clearance racks first, and move on from there.

Taking stock of all of these things I knew that $50 could get us pretty far at Kohls, if we had a game plan.  Here was the game plan:

  • Start by signing up for Kohls emails here and get a $5 off in store coupon emailed to you (can take a few days to get your coupon, so do this a few days before you plan on shopping).
  • Plan to shop around Kohls Sales (we headed out during a Buy $50 and Get $10 Kohls cash sale). Since we were taking advantage of the Kohls Cash sale that meant that it would require two shopping trips (one to earn the Kohls cash and one to spend the Kohls cash). When you sign up for their email list, they send you the sales alerts.
  • Use Kohls coupons! We printed off a 20% off coupon that was recently available, and shopped during those dates. We then received a second 15% off shopping pass in the mail that we used for our second shopping trip when we spent the Kohls cash. (Kohls updates their website with current specials regularly).
  • Do your math ahead of time to know your limits (I knew I had $50 to spend and a 20% off coupon. So I knew we would have around $60 to actually spend before discounts. Of course, you have to be ready to rework your math on the fly when you learn about new savings opportunities at the store, like we did with the Kohls credit card, so you might want to bring a calculator).
  • Shop the clearance racks to maximize savings.
  • Sign up for a Kohls card at checkout. My Kohls offered me an extra 20% off my total order for just applying. You will need to ask about this promotion in-store. It may change at any time, so be sure to ask your cashier what promotions they may currently have going on!

The first thing we did when we got to Kohls was head to the clearance racks. There were plenty of racks (in both the boys and girls sections) for 60-80% off. I like to have my kids start here, and find what they like, and then move to the regular racks. We just seem to have more luck finding items we like on the clearance rack if we shop in that order. The clearance racks at my local store had jeans, long sleeve button up shirts and more fall clothing. However, I let my kiddo pick out the clothes he wanted, and he chose sport shorts and shirts. Its just what he is most comfortable in.

He did such a great job shopping the clearance racks, that when he wanted to buy two sport shirts at regular price, he had the money left in the budget.


All 9 Items Displayed On My Teens Bed Above For Just Over $50!

A couple more strategies I used to keep to our budget with my teen:

  • Try to get most of the basic items at a great deal. That way we have a little left for the splurge items. He found the shorts on clearance, so he was able to buy two shirts he wanted at full price.
  • Give your kids choices while shopping. During this trip, I noticed my son was looking at grey silky sport shorts, full price. I found some similar ones on the clearance rack in a few colors that he liked, and asked if he wanted the pair in his hands or the three pairs I found. He chose the three pairs of shorts. However, when I did the same thing with the shirts, he chose the two full priced shirts he really loved. This way I was able to help him strike a nice balance in getting items he loved, and stretching his budget.
  • Set expectations before you leave the house. My budget was $50, but I knew with our coupons that meant we would be able to get around $60 in merchandise this trip and $15 for the second trip. I told my son he was going to be able to select around $75 in clothing. We found more savings in the store, so he got more, but there was no disappointment that he was not able to get big ticket items, since we had already discussed this ahead of time.
  • Try to shop during the non-peak hours. Weekends can be crazy, and its much easier to work with your kids to find what they want and what you can afford, when you are not trying to also fight crowds.
  • Make it a date! I have 3 kids, and love to use school shopping as an opportunity to take each of them out on a “date”. We go by ourselves (leave the other kids at home), and usually incorporate a stop for ice cream (or for my son to Game Stop), or something that makes it special to them. This way we get to connect, and they remember it as a fun day out, rather then it being a stressful time of trying to stretch budgets. It also helps me focus more on the kiddo I am shopping with, and we seem to do a better job of finding great deals when we are not rushed and distracted.

Here is how the numbers worked out.

All together we got 9 items (6 pairs of sport shorts, and 3 shirts) for $54.65 plus tax. That works out to $6.07 per item before tax. This is a great deal, since two of the shirts he purchased were about $18 ea alone! Here is how we did it:

Shopping Trip #1:

3 shirts, and 4 pairs of shorts for $81.39 (would have been $183.70, full price).

– Used 20% Friends and Family Pass we printed out = $65.11

– and got 20% for applying for Kohls Card = $52.11

Got $10 in Kohls Cash for next trip.

Total Paid = $52.11 plus tax (total saved was $183)

Shopping Trip #2 

2 pairs of shorts for $17.99

– $5 coupon we had for signing up for Kohls emails – $12.99

– $10 in Kohls cash from previous trip – $2.99

– Used 15% off shopping pass we received in mail (they deducted this after all the other coupons, and Kohls cash rung up as a coupon so we saved $.45). = $2.54

Total Paid for 2 pairs of shorts – $2.54 + tax out of pocket ($24.99 ea reg. price!).

Grand Total was $54.65 plus tax for what would have cost us around $275 full price! Time spent with teenage son, PRICELESS :) 


Disclosure: Kohls provided us a $50 gift card to shop with, to illustrate how we can make our budgets stretch shopping with Kohls. We selected to work with Kohls, since we have previously saved there in other shopping trips, and knew there were great money saving opportunities for back to school clothes.  All opinions are 100% mine. See our disclosure policy  for more details.


  1. They gave you 2/20%off discounts? That’s not the norm, probably since they knew you were blogging on it…but great job getting the deals anyway.

    1. Hi Crystal, The store did not know I was blogging on it – I shopped just like I always do at my closest Kohls. I used my 20% off friends and family pass, and then the cashier asked if I wanted to apply for a Kohls card for an additional 20% off (I had not planned on that savings). I initially declined, but she told me I would get the savings then and there, just for applying, and so we decided to save on this purchase. She ran into trouble with the cash register and so called the manager over, and the manager showed her quickly how to add the extra 20% on top with no issues at all. It “should” work at any Kohls that they are offering that promotional savings at was my understanding :)!

  2. Great Job… !! now take that $50.00 card, and get another 250 worth with it :)
    I really really like Kohls, I currently do all that you mentioned. My kids really like the store as well…I always SAVE a bunch there…. I shop w/ 30 % off always and do it when they are offering the $10 for every $50. My husband says he gets a kohls bill every 2 months or so and never even goes there…how is this?? LOL. I have 4 kiddos… and I love their return policy as well… no questions, no receipt… no problem.. They ALWAYS take care of it…

    1. Hi Brandy, I was just in last night and they were running a new Kohls Cash sale, plus gave us game pieces that you can scratch with more money saving opps! Thats another think I love about Kohls, I often find more money saving coupons once I hit the store, then I planned on! Great work on saving for your family too!

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