The family budget can be strained unless you actively work on saving money buying children’s clothing for the new school year. Saving money is more than where you buy the clothes but includes what you purchase and how you care for what you have. We have tips for what to buy, where to buy, and how to make the clothes last.
The first step is to inventory your child’s clothing. Sort out clothes that fit and are in good repair-use these for another school year. Look through your cast-offs. Are they in good shape? Consider using them for hand-me-downs, swipes, or resale. For clothes that look worn, consider using them for at-home play clothes. Make a list of clothes your child needs and the sizes. Keep the list with you.
What to buy
Buy clothing one to two sizes larger, allowing some room for the child to grow into it. It is always a good idea to try on clothes because sizes can vary between manufacturers. Buy clothing online early so you can exchange them if they don’t fit before they are needed.
Buy better quality clothing for stables that are worn frequently-jeans, jackets, and coats. Better quality does not mean brand names- they have variable levels of quality. This article by Penn State will provide you with standards used to identify quality.
Stick to neutral colored clothing for the main pieces-denim, black, brown, navy, gray, and beige. Picking a couple of neutral colors that blend with each other will allow the clothes to coordinate allowing for more combinations. You can have a signature color or two that blend with the neutrals and each other for accent colors. If you have both girls and boys, the neutral colors will make the clothing unisex.
Buy clothing with adjustable waistbands.
Buy/have play clothes. Play clothes are what your kids wear at home. These are either worn clothing your child already owns or clothes you picked up used. Your kids won’t have to worry about getting them dirty.
Avoid buying trendy clothing such as ‘in’ prints, styles, or the latest color. The child may grow tired of leopard prints or the color lime green long before the clothes are no longer wearable. Classic cuts will not fall out of fashion-classic cuts have simple lines and have been around for generations. Examples would be polo shirts, simple t-shirts, and sweaters, a-line or empire waist dresses. Think of vintage clothing without the fussiness.
Buy clothing that can be layered. Layering allows transitional thinner clothing to be used in all but the hot days of summer. For example, a long sleeve t-shirt can be worn during fall and spring with a jacket or vest and during the winner with the addition of a thin jacket, shirt, vest or a heavier sweatshirt layered over under a winter coat. Good choices for clothing layers are items that are not bulky or have bulky details that would interfere with putting another something over it. Layers provide more warmth than a single heavy layer.
Don’t buy clothes they refuse to wear. You may love jean jackets, but if the child doesn’t wear his-it is wasted money.
Where to shop when saving money on children’s clothing
Secondhand/Thrift- These stores vary in quality and prices. Some may have mostly at-home play clothing, and others may overcharge. Be aware of average prices for clothing and look for items at least 60% off. Many of these stores have sales.
Consignment stores also have gently used clothing and shares part of the profit with the person donating the clothing.
eBay has both new and used clothing. New clothing will have these abbreviations NWT (new with tags) and NWOT (new without the tag). Avoid clothing labeled as in play condition.
With all used clothing sources, be choosy and don’t buy something because you think it may work or not on your need list. You probably would not purchase new clothing using this standard.
Let people know that you take hand me downs.
Swaps- Look on Facebook for a swap group in your area, start one up with a group of women you know or use the online site Thredup. With Thredup you mail in a bundle of gently used clothes and get back either cash or credit towards a box of used clothing sent to you in the size you choose.
Off-price retailers -T J Max, Burlington and Marshall’s are some of the better-known merchants. They will save you about 20% to 60% on comparable department store clothing.
Retail and department stores- Sign up for emails from your favorite stores, which will send you announcements of sales and coupons. Look on coupon sites for coupons you can use. Your best discounts occur when you go shopping offseason.
How to take care of what you have
One of the ways to save money on children’s clothes is take care of what you have. Here are some tips to assist.
Pre-treat stains and check clothing for stains before putting in the dryer.
Read clothing care labels and follow recommendations.
Wash clothes in cold water when they are not heavily soiled. Use a cold water detergent. Wash clothing for babies, toddlers, or sick children in the hottest water recommended on the care label.
Wash dark clothing with a detergent designed for dark clothing-it will cut down on fading.
Line drying places less stress on the fabric than using a dryer. Or remove clothing from the dryer while still slightly damp and hang to finish air-drying.
Protect young children clothing while eating with bibs or a parent’s old t-shirt over their clothing.
Mend clothing. Sew on missing/loose buttons and repair minor tears by hand before they become significant problems. Check out these smart ideas for fixing holes in kid’s jeans –15 Jean Patch Ideas.
Get creative with hiding stains using fabric paint or iron-on or sewed decals.
If you have more ideas for saving money buying children’s clothing, please comment below.
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