Keeping children clothed when they insist on growing every few months can be an expensive exercise, but it doesn’t have to be. Although I confess to going a teensy bit mad buying adorable duffel coats and bear-shaped booties while pregnant with my first child, these days I don’t spend much money clothing my tots at all.
Here’s how I keep our clothing costs to a minimum:
- I don’t expect my tots to have a vast wardrobe. Last time I checked, my children aren’t North West, Harper Beckham or Suri Cruise, so they don’t require 150 outfits to see them through Paris Fashion Week or the Cannes Festival. Children who grew up during the Great Depression counted themselves lucky to have two changes of clothing, and some of those were probably fashioned from flour sacks. I love clothes, but I don’t think my children need several pairs of skinny jeans or party clothes for every day of the week. A few outfits that are comfortable and weather-appropriate – plus one ‘good’ outfit – are all kids really need.
- I gratefully accept hand-me-downs. I chuckled as I wrote that last bullet point because although that is my personal belief, my children do currently have more than they need! We are often given clothing from friends with bigger children, and the clothes rage from mint to I’ve-played-the-heck-in-this condition. I appreciate all hand-me-downs as they are brilliant for my tots to wear to kindy and to get mucky in. I don’t sweat it if they get covered in mud and finger-paint, like I would if it was something I’d paid good money for. I opt for second-hand clothing myself whenever possible and hope that my children grow up appreciating second-hand clothing just as much as new.
- I let it be known that I am on the lookout for hand-me-downs. After we moved cities we didn’t get any hand-me-downs for a while, but as I made friends I let them know I was happy to receive them. Friends can often assume that you are getting things from someone else, but if you’re not, let them know. I always ensure I share the love by passing on my children’s clothes to others. I get a real buzz from seeing a friend’s child in something one of my tots wore.
- I go to clothing swaps. Clothing swaps are so much fun. There’s usually nibbles, wine, good friends and several tonnes of clothing involved. I have never, ever come away empty-handed. One swap netted me enough clothing for Chip which lasted him a year. Here’s a picture of the last swap I went to – bear in mind that this was just the children’s section!
- I buy second-hand. I baulk at paying $40 for something my child is going to wear for six months. When I need something for myself, I always look in second-hand stores first, and I do the same with my children. I’ve paid peanuts for really, really beautiful clothing. I often find expensive labels like Oshkosh, Gap, Pumpkin Patch, and the like, for a fraction of what they normally retail for.
- I ask for clothing as presents. When grandparents and friends ask what to get my children for their birthdays or Christmas, I often suggest clothing. Today’s children are overloaded with toys, and I struggle to stem the tide of toys that come into our house from well-meaning friends and family. Clothing is a great – and useful – alternative.
- I buy ahead. If I am at an op-shop and spy something really cool or useful (like waterproof overalls, bathrobes etc) but it’s a size or two bigger, I buy it. We have plenty of storage, and I’ve saved so much money this way. My daughter attends a forest pre-school which necessitates waterproof clothing over winter, plus I like for us to get about in all sorts of weather. A pair of waterproof overalls retail for $40-$60 here. I found a pair for my daughter for $3 and a pair for my son for $1.99.
- I buy on sale. A major chain-store in my city has a half-price clothing sale in the middle of winter. They sell awesome merino singlets and other thermal gear, so I stock up for the next year if we haven’t already inherited some from other children. I’m also not totally opposed to buying new clothing. If we were on the bare bones of our arse, I would expect my children to wear what they were given and be grateful. But we’re not. So when my daughter went into a fit of rapture when she saw this dress – and I saw it was heavily reduced – I said sure. She’s all about dresses, and tulle and sparkles and butterflies right now, so she just loves, loves, loves this dress.
- I buy clothes for my daughter that can be passed down to my son. When possible I do try to get items for Sausage that are plain and serviceable for her brother too. Chip wears loads of his sister’s cast-offs and no one would ever know. Or care.
- I don’t pass things on too quickly. My son is very slim so he gets away with wearing smaller-sized trousers for a few months before beginning to resemble Steve Urkel.
My daughter has several dresses from when she was a baby that we use as tops. They look terrific as breezy summer tops. So don’t be too hasty to get rid of things. Children slim down a LOT once they start walking, and trousers that once need to fit around bulky nappies will often still fit the child when they are older and toilet-trained.
- I deliberately befriend people with children slightly older than my own. Just joking.
How do you save money on children’s clothes?