This weekend, I did inventory on our summer clothing stock and traded everything out in the kids’ drawers. There’s actually very little I need to buy, because like my food shopping, I shop year-round for clothing in all seasons. I admit, having 3 boys makes clothes shopping a little easier (built in hand-me-downs!). However, boys are much rougher on clothing, so not everything survives!
How do I get the most out of my clothing budget?
1) Shop end of season clearance.
I never buy new clothing in season. Never! If I buy new clothing, it is always at the end of a season or well into the next. I’ve gotten awesome deals on flip-flops and sandals in the dead of winter, and my best scores on winter coats came in the summer when no one else was looking. In my area here in the southeast, I’ve found great end-of-season sales at Belk and independent outdoor clothing stores, and always in the clearance sections of my favorite online stores. I also try to buy anything “within range” if it is a good deal. For instance, my “range” right now is boys sizes 5 through 16 (clothing) and boys 10 through mens 8 1/2 (shoes). If I find a great deal in my range, I buy it and put it in the Rubbermaid tub I have assigned to that size. If I discover I have more than enough in one range, I put a sticky note on the visible side of the tub and write “FULL!”. I keep an index card in my wallet letting me know what ranges I have plenty of, and which I need to build up. Usually the bigger sizes need more inventory. My boys look forward each season to seeing what treasures each tub has to offer.
2) Shop for used clothing.
Some people turn up their noses at the thought of wearing second-hand clothing. Pssssh! That’s silly. The first time you wash a piece of clothing, it is used. I have found plenty of quality, brand-name, gently used clothing at consignment shops, thrift stores, and (my personal favorite!) Goodwill. In fact, most of the brand-name clothing we wear was purchased second-hand.
There are businesses and organizations in some cities that have annual consignment sales which are worth checking out. Search online to see if this is available near you (some local consignment sales: Greenville, SC – Greenville, NC - Raleigh, NC – Asheville, NC – Charlotte, NC - Wilmington, NC). I’ve gotten great deals at these sales as well, and most are very selective about the clothing they take.
Some people swear by yard sales, and I too used to make the rounds each Saturday trolling the local yard sales. However, with my busy schedule and the price of gas these days, I don’t do much yard-sale shopping unless it is within walking distance of my house. It’s just too hit-or-miss lately with yard sales, and I can’t justify the gas wasted or time spent if I come home empty-handed. If yard-sale shopping is your thing, it can be a great way to find second-hand clothing at great prices (often better than consignment shops!).
3) Accept (and give!) hand-me-downs.
More than likely, you have a circle of friends with kids at school, church, within the family, and/or in your neighborhood. If there are same gender children that are older than yours, they can be a great source of gently-used clothing. I’ve found that the best way to get the giving cycle going is to donate some yourself. I constantly look for younger boys in our circle of friends who might benefit from some passed-down clothing, and break the ice by asking, “so what size is _____________ in now?” and then follow up with “I think I may have some clothes in that size, would you be interested in having them?” Most people respond with a yes, but it’s always best to ask. I have had people respond with a gracious “no,” and that’s fine. Most families with more than 1 child and any kind of a budget will be open to accepting clothing, though!
If you’re so-inclined, you can also host a “swap party” with a children’s clothing theme at the beginning of each new season.
Within our group of friends, there’s a constant flow of clothing. Sometimes a shirt just shows up on my desk, and I know that someone was cleaning out that weekend! I also keep my eye open for my friends when I go to Goodwill and find a great deal on something not in my range, but in the range of friends’ kids!
I know some people who consign or yard-sale their clothing to make extra money. That’s a great strategy for making some extra money on the side, especially if you don’t know anyone who could benefit from the clothes. I just operate on the “you-reap-what-you-sow” principle (some call it karma), and have found that I benefit most when I give things away. It comes back exponentially!
4) Shop eBay or other online sources.
If you live in a more rural or isolated area, shopping for clothing on eBay or other online sources (ThredUp, Moxie Jean, Seams Karmic, and others) can be a good deal if you’re willing to invest the time looking. I haven’t done much of this but have friends who’ve had great success. You can also sign up for email notifications from your favorite online stores to get information on sales, special promotions, exclusive offers, etc. Knowing ASAP when clearance is 40% off, for example, gives you the best selection on great deals.
What are your tips for the best ways to save money on kids’ clothing?