My daughter and I were having a chat the other day about the cost of kids’ clothing. No, I don’t have any grandkids yet and no this isn’t an announcement – we just like to think ahead. As a single mom in a fairly new job, I was on a really tight budget when my daughter was little. As I started sharing my tips for how to save money on kids’ clothing with my daughter, i realized that this would probably be a good topic to share here too. I’m sure there are some of you who could use some ideas on stretching your budget when it comes to clothing your children.
10 Practical Tips for How to Save Money on Kids’ Clothing
1. My first tip is to get past whatever qualms you may have over second hand clothing.
Seriously, when they are babies, kids outgrow clothing so fast! It was a challenge sometimes making sure that my daughter wore every piece of clothing she had before no longer fit. One thing that helped was that at my baby shower, I had people who gifted me with clothing in a wide variety of sizes, from newborn to 3T. Between that, her grandparents and other family members, she received lots of pretty brand new clothing. So to round it out, the rest of her wardrobe was mostly second hand. Kids are HARD on clothing – spitting up, playing in the mud, getting more of the paint on their clothing than the paper – why oh why would you want to spend big bucks on outfits that are going to go through such rough use?
2. So, that leads me to second hand stores and yard sales.
I frequented Goodwill and Salvation Army stores and yard sales (we didn’t have Value Village until she was a bit older but then I added that to my list too and it is my favourite!). I started shopping there while I was pregnant, stocking up on gender neutral outfits (I didn’t know if I was having a boy or girl) in a variety of sizes whenever I found any of good quality and at a fantastic price. Even better, watch out for those special sale days when they offer an additional discount on everything in the store. Oh and speaking of gender neutral clothing, if you’re planning to have more kids, these can be boxed up and saved for the next baby!
3. Let it be known that you are open to hand me downs.
We were given a bunch of clothing from family members and friends with older children. Take it all, go through it and give away any that won’t work for your child. I had a few of those banker’s boxes and would label them according to sizes – so when she was born I had the clothing up to a 3 month size out in her dresser and hanging in her closet. I put three boxes on the shelf of her closet – one for sizes 3-6 months, one for 9-12 months, and one for over 12 months. As she grew into a new size, I would bring those out. Then I would narrow down some of the bigger sizes – so it might become one for 6-9 months, one for 12-18 months, and one for over 18 months. Why sort them like this? Often I found some overlap in the sizes. There might not be much difference between a 6 month size and a 9 month size or maybe she fit into a 6 month size for pants but a 9 month size would work well for the tops. This way I didn’t miss any of the clothes before she outgrew them and I didn’t have to sort through them constantly.
4. Have a clothing exchange.
We would bring in clothes to work and set them up in the break room. Leave behind what your child no longer needs and take what you can use. It was another great way to find more clothes for your kids and clean out the unneeded ones taking up space in your house. I organized some of these at my church as well but you could invite friends over and do this at home too. (By the way, we did this with books we had finished reading, kids’ toys, and adult clothing as well).
5. Look for great deals on brand new clothing.
One store I have frequented for kids’ clothing for years is Target. They carry Carter’s clothing (one of my favourite brands of kids’ clothes – I’ve always found the quality to be really good) at a reasonable price BUT when they put it on sale, the prices are often competitive with second hand stores! I have purchased really adorable onesies for $1-2, lovely little dresses up to a size 4-6 for only $4-5, and more. But you have to keep an eye out for these deals because they often are in store markdowns and not advertised in their flyers. Walmart is another one we often went to when my daughter was little with some great seasonal prices.
6. Speaking of seasonal, if possible, do some of your shopping at the end of season for the following year.
Often there are drastic price reductions on clothing at the end of a season. This can be a great time to pick up a few bargains but there is a caveat to this. You could end up buying some clothing, putting it away, and when the appropriate season rolls around, your child may have gone through a growth spurt and it might not fit anymore. Yes, there is some guess work to this. So, I only did it on items that were marked down so much that they were dirt cheap AND they were ones that weren’t as big a risk because they weren’t very form-fitting and I was fairly certain there was enough “wiggle room” there to make it worth it. Also be on the lookout for clothes that really aren’t that seasonal. Sometimes you’ll find great end of summer deals on summer jeans for example but if you think about it, jeans can be worn all year round. Or maybe you can pick up some tank tops that can be layered under sweaters.
7. Look for ways to repair or repurpose worn or outgrown clothing.
But consider first, is it worth it? I am not going to spend 2 hours patching up a pair of $2 jeans. Simple tasks like sewing a button back on, repairing a small tear on a seam, or even ironing a patch on the knee of a favourite pair of pants are probably worth it. You can also consider things like cutting off pants with torn out knees and making them into shorts. Cutting off and hemming a dress to turn into a shirt. Be sure to take into account, how much more time will you get out of this piece of clothing? Is it worn in so many places that it’s just time to toss it? Is your child in a growth spurt and this article of clothing isn’t likely to last much more than another month anyway?
8. Check out Facebook groups for buying and selling (or even trading) items.
I know quite a few moms who are able to find some amazing bargains this way. Of course, I’m so old that Facebook didn’t exist when my daughter was little……the internet wasn’t even a thing so no Craig’s List or Kijiji or Ebay either…..sigh. Those are all possible options though. If you have Freecycle in your area, that’s another one to check out. And I recently heard about Thredup – which kind of takes my clothing swap idea and puts it online!
9. Buy clothing with an eye for mixing and matching.
Ok so you might want a few adorable little outfits that only work as outfits but in general, try to buy items that will work well with a variety of others. It adds far more versatility to your child’s wardrobe and gets you more outfits from fewer pieces of clothing. Separates like skirts, pants, and tops are often better choices than dresses and jumpsuits.
10. Remember that kids don’t need extensive wardrobes.
They often develop favourites anyway and want to wear those same items over and over again. Those fancy outfits are adorable but the reality is that kids pretty much live in play clothes. Or if your child is typical, they will take their clothes off and run around the house wearing only a diaper. It happens.