Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

Back to School Shopping on A Tight Budget

Dear Ilana and Jess: My kids want to look cool as they head back into school, but there are limits to what we can afford. How can I help them look their best without breaking the bank?

Dear Milo: We get variations of your question a lot. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to help your kids look (and feel) cool.

Start by guiding your kids to review their stock. Go through what they have to see what they actually need before you buy something new. Do they have 8 blue shirts? 100 t-shirts, but none of them work for a dressier occasion? 3 pairs of the same shoes? Know what they could use more or less of to help avoid buying more things that they’ll never wear (or even take the tag off of).

Stick to staples. Buy items that the kids can use time and time again, and mix and match with other items in their closet. Get tops and bottoms of similar styles and color combinations, so that they can coordinate them together easily. This maximizes the potential for variety in their wardrobe.

Go for quality over quantity. While it might be tempting to buy 10 shirts for the price of one, in the long run, the kids will probably get much more use out of one shirt that’s well-made. Plus, splurging on one, special item can help elevate a whole look (or wardrobe). Check the seams before you buy: they should be straight, neat, and should not look like they’ll fall apart as soon as you tug your sleeve. Try to stick to natural blends and fibers, because these materials will last longer.

Set a budget. Give your kids a spending limit and stick to it. If you’re going shopping, leave the plastic at home. Instead, bring a predetermined amount of cash so that you spend no more than you planned to. This will help the kids be decisive in-the-moment; they’ll learn to ask themselves; “Is this really worth the money?”

Shop at the right places and the right time. Vintage shopping can lead you to some great finds that take it easy on your wallet. If vintage stores aren’t commonplace in your area, try to stick to stores that have affordable options, or better yet, sales. If big expenses like the Apple Watch are on your list, see if you can get pre-used or older versions of those products. Just make sure you trust the seller and be sure to check the return policy.

Say This: “We’re going to be strategic about our shopping this year. First, let’s take stock of your closet and figure out what you do and don’t need. You can choose how you’d like to spend the money within the budget I give you; so think about some pieces you might want!”

Not That: “Don’t get too excited. We can only afford so much.”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: