I love my kids, but it seems like every time I turn around they’ve outgrown their clothes! With even one kid, this can be costly – with three (like I have) you could end up in the poor house if you don’t use some money saving tricks!
Most of these tips involve used clothes – some people think that this is a little icky, but think of this. You buy a shirt, wear it, and wash it. What is it now? Used. And most of us have bought a new garment, brought it home, washed it, and saw it disintegrate as soon as it came out of the dryer. If a garment is bought used and still looks good, you’re MUCH less likely to have it fall apart after a washing! So keep an open mind – you might be surprised at what you find.
1. Ask Friends, Have A Clothing Swap
Do any of your friends have a child a little older than yours (and the right gender)? Or do a few of your friends have children a little younger than yours? One thing my friends do is gather up all the outgrown clothes, meet at a central location like a playground, and trade for what we need. Any leftovers get donated to a local charity. You can make this as structured or as loose as you like (take what you want, take as many items as you brought), the point is making sure everyone gets as chance to give and receive clothes for their kids.
2. Yard Sales
In our area (Pennsylvania) yard sales are a seasonal thing – April, May and June are the big yard sale months – but in other areas yard sales can go on year-round. Your best bet is to find out which neighborhoods are having community yard sales, rather than try to locate yard sales individually, and seek out the sales that have lots of kids clothes. Check for stains and damage before you buy. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price – it’s expected at a yard sale! If someone doesn’t want to give you a bargain on one item, ask if they’ll give a discount on many items ($5 to fill a bag). More people will be willing to give you a deal towards the end of the sale, since whatever they sell means less to pull back inside after the sale.
Many people will sell boxes full of clothes, say 20 items, boys size 3T, for one price. ALWAYS be careful when buying and selling through Craigslist, though I have to say I’ve made a lot of purchases (and sales) through Craigslist and never had an issue.
4. Thrift Stores/Charity Shops
Check your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other store that accepts clothing donations. We have a shop in our area that has been a great resource for our family, since they’re very careful about what donations are marked for sale. We also like to go on Wednesdays, since everything is half price those days – a bargain on a bargain, so to speak. Not all thrift stores are created equal, so some stores might not have the things you need, but it’s worth checking – new items arrive every day!
5. Consignment Sales/Stores
These aren’t available in all areas, but if you find one in your area, check it out. Consignment sales are usually semi-annual events in which parents price and tag their used kids items, and submit them to an organizer. Then all the items are hung, shelved, and displayed for a 3 day sale. A portion of the money from the sale goes to the parent that brought the item in, the rest is kept to pay for expenses related to the sale (renting the space, advertising, etc.). This is a great way to get clothes (and books and toys) for your kids, but it’s also a great way to make money on your gently used kid items. If you put items in the sale, some organizers allow you to have a “sneak peek” day where you have first crack at the sale items – a great way to get the best selection. Other people like to go at the end of the sale, when things get marked down to 50% off – either way, you’re sure to find a bargain.
Instead of semi-annual events, consignment stores are open year-round. They operate much like the consignment sales (parents bring in their kids’ clothing, get a portion of the sale amount after they sell) but are known for only accepting and pricing the nicest, stain and damage free items. You will usually pay half or less of the original retail price for items at a consignment sale, which makes this a bit more expensive than other methods of shopping for used kids clothes, but still saves over buying new.
This is sort of an online version of a consignment store. Usually when you want to find very high end used items, you had to travel to shops that serve affluent areas. With ThredUP, you can shop online for quality used items at less than half of retail prices. It’s also easy to sell your own items through ThredUP – all you do is order a “clean out bag”, select your nicest, freshest brand name pieces that you can no longer use, and send them off in the postage pre-paid bag. If your items are listed for less than $60, you’ll get paid right away – otherwise (like if you’re selling a high-end purse for $120) you’ll get paid after they sell. This is a great tool if you have lots of on-trend, brand name items that you or your kid wore very little, and you can score excellent new-to-you items at low-ish prices.
7. Clearance Racks
If you’re not impressed with the quality of used items available, or you just prefer brand-new, many childrens’ stores have terrific end-of-season clearance sales. Gymboree and The Children’s Place are two of my favorite stores for clearance sales – they have high quality items, and they get marked down dramatically at the end of the season – but you can do well at Target, Sears, and JC Penney too. Sometimes you can score clothes and shoes for 75% off this way! For most kids you can get away with just buying the next size up in clothes, but I rarely know what size shoe they’ll wear from one year to the next. When in doubt, go a little big.
I hope these tips will help you save a bundle on your kids clothes. If one strategy doesn’t work for you, try another, but never assume that you’re stuck paying full retail prices. Save now so you can set that money aside for their college fund!