With one boy and one girl, I don’t have the luxury of using hand-me-down clothes for my children. When my youngest grows out of his jeans, I have to hit the store because he simply won’t wear his older sister’s pants with the embroidered flowers. It’s understandable.
But what I don’t understand is how a pair of jeans roughly a quarter of the size of an adult pair costs the same amount. Pondering this as I wrestled my kids through The Children’s Place, I decided that I would quit paying full price on all of my kids’ clothes once and for all.
How to Buy Kids’ Clothes for Less
Whether it’s back-to-school season or simply the kickoff to summer, your kids are going to need new clothes. When I was the parent of an only child, this just meant more hours spent at the mall, picking through the adorable, pricey outfits. Now, however, with young ones, I’ve had to be a lot smarter when I shop.
If you find yourself spending too much money on children’s clothes, there are a number of easy ways to cut back the expense:
1. Ignore Collections
Kids’ clothing stores usually group their latest collections right at the front of the store where you can easily see all of the different pieces together. It’s what persuades you to buy the top, the skirts, the matching shoes, and even the cute hair clips all at the same time. But your child doesn’t really care if you buy every piece in the entire collection. If you fall in love with a pair of pants, go ahead and buy them – but ignore the other items that are grouped with it. Sure, your kid would look adorable in that hat, but let’s face it: It’s completely unnecessary.
Head to the back of the store instead, where you’ll find clearance items for cheap. You’ll score extra savings when the store is doing a percentage-off sale – just make sure that the discount applies to the clearance rack as well.
2. Think Ahead
Stores start closing out sweaters and other cold weather gear when their spring stock comes in, but that doesn’t mean your winter season is over. I love shopping end-of-season sales because they usually happen a month or two before my kids actually switch seasonal wardrobes. I buy seasonal clothes that are slightly large for my kids. They can wear a new item for a couple of months, and then it gets stored away for the next year – and leaves the kids room to grow.
3. Share Basics
I won’t make my son wear a pair of Mary Janes, and my daughter doesn’t have to wear a Lightning McQueen shirt, but when it comes to the basics, they definitely share. Snow pants, gloves, boots, hoodies, and jackets are all major purchases, and I hate buying two sets of everything. Instead, I always buy them in black or brown so they can be shared and passed down. These items can be pricey, and having to buy only one pair is a big financial relief.
4. Buy Play Clothes
There’s a big difference between summer play clothes and fall school clothes – namely, the price and the quality. When I know my kids are going to be playing at the park, riding bikes, and heading to the beach, I look for play-quality clothes for cheap. I look for deals that allow me to buy two or three shirts for around $10, or discounted graphic tees, sweatpants, flip-flops, and shorts.
5. Swap With Friends
Use your resources to reduce the need to buy clothes from the store. You can organize a kids’ clothing swap in the same way you would an adult clothing swap: Tell all your friends to bring 10 to 15 pieces that are in great condition and approximately the same size, and you’ll end up with new additions to your child’s closet without actually spending a dime.
6. Sell Clothes
If you know you have the big back-to-school shopping spree coming up, work to fund it without dipping into your savings. One way is to take your child’s old clothes to a garage sale in your neighborhood. As long as the homeowner is okay with it, you can sell pants, shirts, and shoes that are in good condition for a few dollars a piece. You can also sell clothes online via sites like eBay. Once you’ve sold the unneeded items, you can then take the money you’ve earned and put it toward buying new clothes for the season.
7. Shop Secondhand
If the idea of buying someone else’s stuff is initially unappealing, start small. Check out local thrift stores and consignment shops to check for great deals on clean, gently used clothing basics. In general, purchasing “special occasion” clothing from a secondhand store is a smart idea, as your child probably won’t need to wear her Easter dress more than a couple of times.
Once you become more comfortable with buying secondhand clothes, you can branch out to buying pants, shirts, and other basics. Just be sure to wash these items thoroughly before adding them to your child’s wardrobe.
8. Check Out Garage Sales
Think you can only snag toys and books at garage sales? Think again. You can get great deals on kids’ clothes if you’re a savvy shopper. If you want the best deals, do some research online by visiting sites such as Garage Sales Tracker and Yard Sale Search to view advertised upcoming sales. Here, you can view details of the sale, as well some of the featured items. You may also be able to contact the seller to see how many kids they have, as well as their genders. A family with one boy and one girl probably has clothes in great condition because they aren’t used as hand-me-downs. Doing your homework means you’ll get great deals on the best stuff.
I’m still stuck spending some cash on my kids’ wardrobes – I guess it’s just an “occupational hazard” of being a parent. However, you don’t need to spend a ton to make sure your kids look great – as long as you get creative, bargains are easy to come by no matter how old your children are!
How do you save on your kids’ clothing purchases? What are your favorite stores for shopping?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)