Clothing Your Kids on a Budget

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Clothing kids who grow faster than dandelions on a rain-soaked, sun-drenched lawn can be a challenge. It’s especially trying when paychecks are already stretched to the max. But there are ways you can dress your kids well without breaking the bank.

• Check yard sales, thrift stores and eBay for kids clothes – in that order. If you can find what you need at a yard sale, you’ll typically get the best price – sometimes as low as 25¢ a piece! Thrift stores rank second with the lowest overall price, especially if you watch for sales and discount days. If you still can’t find what you need, visit eBay or other online shops. You’ll have to pay shipping, of course, and it’s harder to judge sizes when you can’t see the items themselves. But you can still find some really good deals that make shopping online worthwhile.

• Shop end of season clearance sales. It helps to choose classic styles and colors in a slightly larger size so they’ll be wearable the following year. You can often find some really good deals by shopping early (or late, as the case may be).

• Keep a list of clothing sizes with you at all times. This will enable you to shop sales for items you know you’ll be needing soon such as underwear and socks, or to fill in gaps where needed with a certain color top or pair of pants.

• Start your own hand-me-down storage. If you have more than one child, save the clothes they outgrow for the next child in line. It’s nice to add a few “new” (to them) items each season so the younger child doesn’t feel second-class. But this can be one of your biggest saving strategies when it comes to outfitting child number two.

• Organize a clothing swap with other moms. Have everyone bring the clothes their kids can no longer wear and take home what they will use. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you like, but the idea is for everyone to walk away with clothing their kids can wear right away.

• Look for other moms and friends you can swap with one-one-one. One mom was able to pass her five-year-old son’s clothes on to a friend with a four-year-old son, while her friend shared clothes from her twelve-year-old daughter that fit the first mom’s eleven-year-old perfectly. You never know when you might find a “match” that will last until the kids are grown!

• Skip the name brands. While you want quality clothes for your kids, name brands aren’t a necessity, especially for very young children. Save the higher-priced name brand clothing for when kids are old enough to help with their clothing costs, or for when clothes are more likely to last through multiple wearing seasons without becoming outgrown. If you really must have name brand or luxury clothes, look at second-hand stores and boutiques. No one but you, the clerk and your wallet will know they aren’t absolutely brand new.

• Choose mostly classic styles and colors then fill in with a few trendier items. Opt for basic jeans or khakis, standard shorts, simple skirts, and polos or tees whenever possible. These basic designs will never go out of style and can be updated with belts, jackets, shoes, etc. as seasons change.

• Teach your kids to treat their clothes gingerly and they’ll last longer. Have them change out of school clothes into play clothes as soon as they get home. Try to get more than one wearing from clothes before washing. Treat stains immediately with a stain removal pen or spray. And save “good” clothes for school, church and family outings, using older clothes for play and chores.

• Plan each family member’s wardrobe in advance so you can afford to wait for sales or until you find the items you need secondhand. Having to rush out and buy three new pairs of jeans for school, when you knew school would be starting soon, can cause you to overspend. Advance planning can help cut your clothing bill by half or more.

• Get out the sewing machine and whip up some simple pieces. While you may not feel competent enough to create a whole wardrobe, even beginning seamstresses can make simple shirts and skirts for the kids. If needed, take a sewing class to improve your skills

• Get creative and adapt what you have on hand. Adding trims, replacing buttons, or shortening a hemline are tasks that most any mom can handle with ease. And these simple changes could turn an old or outdated outfit into something new and exciting that your child will be thrilled to wear.

• Choose washable fabrics. Factoring in the cost of dry cleaning can shoot the price of kids’ clothes through the roof. Be sure anything you buy – new or secondhand – is machine washable. The savings will be substantial.

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