Buying clothes for your kids can end up getting really expensive if you don’t budget and plan as you go. Kids’ clothes are outgrown quickly and it's temping to want to buy all the adorable clothes that are out there these days. Having a plan for your kids’ clothes should be an essential part of your budget; here are some tips that have been helpful for me!
1. Locate the children’s consignment stores in your city. Since kids grow out of their clothes so quickly, consignment stores a great place to start. My favorite stores in my city, Richmond, VA, are Clover (pictured above) and Once Upon a Child. It gives me access to adorable and practical outfits from a variety of brands. I can take comfort in the knowledge that most of the clothing is going to be gently used, and I have found some great quality clothing at a reduced cost. A lot of children’s consignment stores also buy gently used clothing, so if you have clothes that your kid no longer wears, try selling it. You can use the money that you make from selling last year’s outfits to purchase some new ones for the upcoming year.
2. Trade with friends who have kids. If you have friends that have kids, talk with them about donating, lending, trading kids' clothes with them. Maybe you have a box of clothes from your first kid that you want to save for your next one, don’t mind lending that out to a friend, and your friend is in the same scenario. You can also let your friends know that you would appreciate any hand-me-downs that they are willing to share; either to donate or lend. This system really comes in handy especially with items like shoes and jackets – necessities that can get expensive but are durable enough to last several hand-me-downs.
3. Get familiar with the sales at kids stores. Some of my favorite stores to shop for baby and toddler clothes are Baby Gap, Target and Old Navy. All of these places constantly have GREAT sales and if you keep track of when the sales are happening, you never have to pay full price. Sign up for their email lists so that you can get alerts on deals and big sales. If you buy online, sign up for a website like ebates.com, where you can get cash back for the purchases you make online.
4. Think in seasons and make a list. Take some time to think through the necessities for each season and make a list. For example, for the upcoming summer I know that my toddler is going to need a pair of sandals, a swimsuit, and a couple of dresses for church and special occasions. Since I do laundry 1-2 times a week, I’ve calculated that she also needs 3-5 shorts, 5-6 t-shirts and 3-4 leggings that she can play and roll around in for everyday. I also make a note to keep an eye out for deals on things like hats and sunglasses that she may need for trips to the beach. I start thinking about this a few months before summer so that I can keep my eye out for the necessities when I go to consignment stores, shop online sales and ask for hand-me-downs. It’s easy to go overboard buying cute stuff, especially if they are cheap, but making a list each season helps to keep things in perspective. Remember that come fall, they will probably have outgrown everything they wore during the summer, so these seasonal items are only being worn for 3-4 months. Towards the end of the season, keep your eye out for big end-of-season sales, evaluate what you will need for the following year and take advantage of those deals. As you go, you'll start getting a sense of how much you should budget for each season.
5. Buy things that you really like and know will be the outfit that you reach for again and again. Just because your kid is going to grow out of that shirt in a few months doesn't mean you have to always go for the cheapest item. I think it's better to buy one shirt that is of higher quality, will last multiple washes and in a style that I really appreciate, than two low cost shirts that feel like they might fall apart after a few washes. If there is something of higher quality that I really like, I will usually track that item until it goes on sale. I also try to buy some classic and basic styles that will stand the test of time. This way, they will remain functional when they are in hand-me-down mode.
6. Get familiar with bleach and stain remover pens. Try to maintain the quality of clothes that you do have. Again, if it is an article of clothing that you really like, you can save it for your next kid, lend it to a friend or even sell it to a consignment store. Get comfortable with bleaching white pieces of clothing and immediately address pieces of clothing that get stains or dirt on them by soaking them in water. Carry around an extra set of clothes, and if you think you will use it, throw a stain remover pen in your bag.
7. Wash, pack up and label all clothes. Once you know that your kid has outgrown particular item of clothing and/or the seasons change, be diligent about washing, packing and labeling those sets of clothes for the future. Doing this will keep your kid’s closet and dresser clutter-free and give you a better idea of what they need or don’t need. This will also make it really easy on you when you going through all the different seasons with your next kid or want to donate/lend a friend some clothes for a particular season or age.
8. Make a registry. Creating a registry for your kid can be a controversial issue, but the more childrens' birthday parties I go to, the more I think that this might be a great idea. I often want to buy a gift, but don’t want to buy them yet another toy that they don’t need or will add clutter to their home. Since I am a mom myself, I am interested in knowing if there is a particular item that the mom needs or if there is an item that the mom wants to buy for her child but can't spend the money on. If you’re comfortable creating a registry for your kid, register somewhere like myregistry.com where you can pull items from various stores’ websites and keep up with it, updating it as your child grows. You can add things on here like a special outfit or that jacket that you are eyeing but don't have the budget for, and maybe these are things that your family and friends would want to buy for your child.
(Image credits: Christine Lu)