Jennifer Bardsley’s daughter told her mom to use the panorama function on her smartphone camera to get this stretched visual effect. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Jennifer Bardsley’s daughter told her mom to use the panorama function on her smartphone camera to get this stretched visual effect. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Back-to-school shopping with budget-conscious teens

Jennifer Bardsley’s son, daughter and nieces taught her these tricks for saving a lot of money on new school wardrobes.

Summer’s still here, thank goodness, but September is right around the corner. Teenagers all across America are plotting what to wear when they return to school. With inflation making an impact, stretching dollars is more important than ever. I’m impressed with the budget-minded strategies that the teens in my life employ. My son, daughter and nieces have all taught me several tricks for getting the look, without going broke.

Goodwill bins in Everett

I’ve always been familiar with Goodwill, but I didn’t know about what “Goodwill Bins” meant until my nieces explained it to me. Certain Goodwill locations, such as the Everett outlet on 2208 W. Casino Road, have bins where they sell items for under two bucks a pound. It’s like treasure hunting. You put on rubber gloves and sort through the bins hoping to luck out. My nieces wear earbuds and listen to music while they search. They look for high-end items like cashmere sweaters or designer jeans. If the size is wrong, oh well. They’ll resell it online when they get home. An example of what this looks like is they might spend $5 on six pairs of jeans. One pair fits great and they keep it. One pair fits their mom. Three pairs don’t work out and they donate them back to Goodwill. The sixth pair sells online for $30. Clever, right?

Flexing that discount

Another useful strategy for teens shopping on a budget is to work at a store where you like to shop. Forever 21, REI, Footlocker, Sephora and more; employee discounts really help. Plus, summer jobs are incredibly important teaching tools on the path to adulthood. Learning how hard it is to stand on your feet for eight hours a day and deal with grumpy customers isn’t something that can happen in a classroom. It also puts new meaning into the true cost of a $30 T-shirt.

Buying used on eBay

When teens have their eye on a designer good, a practical option is to buy used on eBay. Notice I said “used.” A takeaway from attending the three-month Community Police Academy put on by the Edmonds Police Department is that brands like Lululemon are frequently stolen and sold online. I always had a vague notion that shifty things like that went on, but I didn’t know what a huge problem it was. Chances are that a Coach purse with the tags on it is hot property. But a gently used Michael Kors purse could be a sweet find. Or a 20-year- old Pendleton shirt that only has one easy-to-repair moth hole. Let’s refresh those sewing skills while we’re at it.

Hello Oregon!

My favorite back-to-school shopping strategy is one I taught my kids a long time ago: shop in Oregon. Time it right so that your family camping trip to Cannon Beach or visit with Portland relatives happens in late August. That’s a roughly 10% savings on sales tax right there. Of course, the savings wash away if you add in gas prices, but if you were going to visit Oregon anyway, it’s a nice bonus. Which means — ahem — Mom might want to do some shopping too the next time the family drives south.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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