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Seriously, it’s just cheap. But it works so well!
I know some people who like to buy nice kids’ clothes. They go to upscale stores and they buy the clothes when they are brand new, when they need them. So, they do back to school shopping in August and pay full price. They walk away with the latest styles, at a price tag of $5OO or more for a full wardrobe! They rave about how the clothes are such “high quality” and they’ll “last forever.”
News flash: Kids grow FAST. Your kid will wear these clothes no longer than a year. They don’t need to last forever. They need to be clean, they need to fit, and they need to look halfway decent (i.e. you don’t want sweatpants and t shirts for church. But that’s it! You really don’t need more than that.
How much do I spend on kids’ clothing per year? About $5O to $75 per child. For the whole year. Even though we are in a Northern state and I have to buy separate summer and winter wardrobes. And keep in mind this is only for the first child of that gender, in that season. If my next baby is boy he’s basically going to be clothed for free because he will be born in the same season as Daniel. If it’s a girl I’ll need a few new things, because this baby’s coming in August and Bekah was a January baby. But even then only for about the first year, then sizes will match up.
How do I do it, you may ask? I’ve found a “formula” over the last couple of years that never fails. The most important part of it is buy a year ahead of time. You cannot get good deals on the latest styles. Not really. So I’ve already started shopping for next winter’s clothes for both kids, and it’s early January. The reason some don’t do this is because they say “I don’t know what size my kids will be in next year!” That excuse only works the first year, because your baby could actually be in size 12 months or 18 months depending on how fast he grows, at age 1. Even then you can probably make a decent guess, or buy some of each. With older children, just buy the next size up, and if your child doesn’t quite grow as fast, you’ll still have his previous year’s clothes to wear. Guess a little bigger than you think if you’re really not sure, but by the time your kid is 2 or 3, you should have an idea of what his growth pattern is like.
Here’s a good breakdown:
If someone says, “Hey, there’s a big consignment sale this weekend!” I try to go if at all possible. Then I buy whatever I can that I know my children will wear in the next two years or so. Yes, last year I bought 2T clothes for Daniel (then about 8 months old and some 5/6 for Bekah. But when you find jeans for $1 you don’t pass them up, especially nice ones. Brand new nice ones. I once found a ton of undershirts (sizes from 3T to 5/6, when Bekah was then 18 months old, and bought them all. I got them for 5 cents each. I also got really lucky on Craig’s List when Daniel was a newborn (literally less than a month old and found a whole 18 month wardrobe for only $25. I jumped on it, and he’s clothed this whole winter for super cheap!
Now, you can’t count on deals like this when you’re at crunch time: the kid needs clothes now. That’s why you always keep $2O set aside and hit up any major consignment sale, garage sale, or Craig’s List deal that you find. If clothes are $2 per piece or less and nice, just buy them. You’ll thank yourself later.
My next step is to head to J.C. Penney’s. They have Okee Dokee brand sweat pants and shirts (and capris, shorts, athletic pants, and sometimes even jeans and corduroys that are super cheap. Find them on 7O% off clearance, and you’ll pay $2.99 for most items. Occasionally the nicer items will be up to $5.99 and I usually skip those, but really they’re not a bad deal either. I just know I can do better.
Here, I buy several pairs of pants and shirts. I kind of let the kids choose whatever. Well, Bekah chooses because she cares, but Daniel really doesn’t. Most of the time my kids prefer to just wear soft tshirts or sweat pants anyway, and some of them are really cute. These are definitely great play clothes. Sometimes you can even find preppy polo style shirts for boys at this price, too, and those are nice for church or other “nicer” places. This makes up about 7O% of what I buy for them.
I like to hit this up much more in the winter than the summer, but I do it in both seasons. At the end of their seasons [about the first two weeks of February, and beginning of August], they will do a major sale. Whatever’s left is $2.99 or less. I got Bekah tons of tights and leggings for only $1 each. I also got both kids fleece jackets, sweatshirts, and sweaters [really too many] for just $2.99 each! Yes, jackets and sweaters for that price!
This is where I really do some filling in on the “bigger” items. I make sure I get their coats, sweaters, sweatshirts, and other nicer clothes here. Sometimes they’ve had excellent deals on PJs, too, and I got some of those. And of course, check the $1 bins for tights, leggings, hats, gloves, and other miscellaneous items.
By this time I’ve got them almost everything they need. So then….
Garage Sales/Once Upon a Child/Craig’s List
Okay, I’ll be honest. I don’t always have time to hit up garage sales. I’m busy, they may or may not have what I want…. So I’ll do them now and then, but they’re not my main source of anything. Also, in this area at least, you’ll often pay what you would at a consignment store or more for kids’ clothes. I’m talking $3 to $5 for a shirt. I’m not wasting all day trying to find clothes, then paying more than I would at many other places! But, if I happen to go and happen to find a good deal, great.
I’ll go to Once Upon a Child because I know they’ll have the items I want, usually. Here, I look for 5O% off tags or items that are $1 or $2 each. I’ve found some really nice things, too. I’ll fill in jeans, khakis, or a few extra shirts. I often buy bathing suits here. Bath robes are also good deals here. I also buy dress shoes, boots, or other “special” shoes. I refuse to pay more than $3 per item, except shoes. I’ve also found nice winter coats for $5 here, which I’ll buy if I couldn’t get what I wanted at Children’s Place. I don’t usually buy “real” winter coats though because they’re not safe in car seats and my kids don’t spend a lot of time just playing outside. I prefer to layer them and use the fleece jackets. But hey, it’s one less item to buy, right?
Craig’s List is the best place for PJs. For some reason, most stores don’t have very good deals on them [and I'm not paying $1O per pair], and OUAC often doesn’t even have them. So I find a lot of PJs on CL and buy them up for $1 or $2 per pair. This is for winter PJs only, by the way. For the summer, I just buy the kids cheap undershirts and let them wear those and sweatpants to bed. Or, if it’s hot, just the undershirt. They do not need special summer PJs. I only buy them in the winter because they would not be warm enough otherwise.
Then I head to Walmart. Here I buy socks and underwear. They seem to have the best prices on big bags of neutral stuff. I often buy undershirts here too.
And although I don’t do this very often, it’s worth mentioning that they have a table of “Garanimals” shirts/pants that are either $1.99 or $2.99, similar to the J.C. Penney’s stuff. If they really are only $1.99 I should probably do this more often…. But it’s a good deal.
Also, I will often check Walmart at the very end of seasons when they have a lot of clothes on sale for around $3 to buy bathing suits or other “random” items. We’ve bought shoes here too, if we’re in a pinch.
This is really hit or miss. I mostly lump this in with the “random deals” group, because if I come across a shirt Bekah loves for $1, I’ll buy it. But I do buy shoes or boots here if I possibly can. They are only $2 a pair, instead of the $5 I’d pay at OUAC. But they are hit and miss; it depends on what’s there. They might not have my kid’s size. So I’ll check, but I don’t count it as a guarantee by any means.
Once my kids are 2 or so, and they actually wear shoes for a full year, they get one nice pair of shoes each year. I find whatever’s on clearance and pay $3o to $4o for a pair of shoes. I don’t spend $5o or $7o and we don’t buy dress shoes or secondary shoes or anything here. Just one solid pair of tennis shoes. We do this because we discovered that shoes that don’t fit properly don’t support growing spines and can cause back problems. It’s worth saving the chiropractic bills to get one decent pair of shoes per year.
Okay, this is really a “random deals” type thing too, but worth mentioning. Family members will call and ask before Christmas or birthdays what our kids need. Or sometimes they just feel like shopping, or they’re hitting up local garage sales or consignment stores, and they end up getting our kids some clothes. This past Christmas, Ben’s sister hit consignment stores and got Daniel almost a full summer wardrobe! About 7 pairs of shorts and 7 shirts, plus 3 really nice pairs of sandals. And I know she spent only around $25 for all of it, so that’s pretty awesome for everyone involved.
This is where we often get the “nice” or random stuff, like Christmas or Easter dresses. My mom loves to buy these for Bekah, and often gets them at consignment stores. She’s even bought up through size 5 already because she found some great deals. Sometimes we get PJs or random shirts or just “whatever” this way. And I can and sometimes do make special requests for items that I haven’t been able to find at a price I’m willing to pay: “Hey mom, could you check the consignment store near you to see if they have bigger onesies? Thanks.” I know she’ll get them about 3 for $1 so I don’t feel bad asking. This is how I fill in those last “we don’t really need them but they would be so nice to have” items!
And that’s it! That’s how I clothe my kids for around $5o or so per year, per kid. It takes a lot of advance planning (like I said, I’m already buying for next fall and it’s right after Christmas, and a lot of time (I end up shopping at several stores over several weeks, but it’s worth it. It’s nice to know I am being a good steward with our resources while providing well for my children!
How do you clothe your children on a budget? How much do you spend per year, per child?
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