SILVER SPRING, MD, November 12, 2012 – Raising a child is an expensive proposition, and one of the most costly aspects is clothing. Providing a child’s wardrobe is more than just changing the clothes for the seasons, it is also changing for size and age. You can spend thousands of dollars the first 2 years alone if you do not have a clothes strategy with savings in mind when you are searching for the next onesie or pair of pants for your little one. Here are a few tactics to try that will keep your child clothed but keep more money in your pocket.
This is probably the best way to save money. Handing clothing down from older sibling to younger or from cousin to cousin, even close friends with older children will sometimes be will participants in a hand-me-down exchange
Do not expect that you will just receive bags of clothes magically. Ask your friends and relatives with older children what they do with the clothes when their kids out-grow them. If the answer is “donate them,” do not feel ashamed to ask if maybe they could be passed to you. . If you are lucky enough to be getting bags of clothes from family members, count your blessings. Clothes don’t come any cheaper than free, and the hand-me-down option is not always available to everyone.
Thrift stores and second-hand shops have been long time haunts of parents looking for a cheap way to cloth their children. Because the goods are second hand, and in places like Goodwill or The Salvation Army they are donated, the price tags are a fraction of what the garments would cost new.
The biggest downside to relying on thrift stores as the sole means of clothing your child is selection and availability. While the stores are always packed with product, it may not be the product you are looking for. Since these shops rely on others cleaning out their closet, the size, season and gender may not always be what you need. They may have an abundance of cute little newborn onesies for a girl, but only one shirt for a 2-year-old boy.
Pay attention to your favorite clothing stores’ sales and clearance patterns. Often stores will have a certain routine they use when rolling out the new line. An example might be: 2 weeks at full price, 2 weeks at 25% off, 4 weeks at full price, 2 weeks at 30% off, then to clearance. If you can figure out what their sales cycles are for each season, then you can avoid paying full price for any item that you might need to fill in a wardrobe.
Also, keep an eye out for coupons. Sometimes they are attached to your receipt for a future purchase, sometimes they are sent via e-mail or snail-mail, and sometimes they are in circulars in your Sunday paper.
Buy a year ahead
If you have been tracking sales at your favorite stores, then chances are you know when clearance hits. Because of the way the clothing industry works, there are more seasons to clothing than there are to the year, so the clothes roll there before the season is actually over. This can be helpful in planning ahead. There are some children who grow extremely fast and skip sizes, but most settle into a solid growth curve after the first year and as a parents you can anticipate how big they are going to be in short term.
Scan the clearance racks and compare prices to sale prices. Sometimes clearance is not any better than a 30% off sale. If the clearance price is a bargain, it is a good way to start building up your future wardrobe. If your know your child will be going into 18 months clothes for the exact same season next year, why not buy the cute little sundress now when you can get it greatly reduced? Jeans are a staple in most kids wardrobe, so if you child is only 16 months, but they have a pair of 3T jeans on sale for $3, why not get them now and put them away until your child grows into them?
Baby clothes exchange
Similar to the second-hand shop and the hand-me-down model, the internet has brought us a new venue for making the most of our baby budget. There are numerous websites out there that can help you find low cost baby clothes, and some that even allow you to trade your old clothes in for credit towards your purchases, making them a double bonus for the wallet. Just like thrift stores, you are limited in selection to what other parents are purging, but across multiple sites, you are likely to find more of what you need.
Swapbabygoods.com is a listing site for baby goods that allows parents to list their baby clothes and other outgrown baby gear for sale. You can find single items, like toddler jackets for $5 or bundles of clothing, like a lot of 19 pants for $40.
The Freecycle Network is a website that is designed for intra-community sharing and donations. Every listing on the site is for a second-hand good that is being given away for free.
Thred up is an online children’s used clothing store. It allows you to send in your old clothes for credit and then resells them at a discount. This can be a good option if you do not want to wait for another parent to purchase your offerings, but the credit is less than the sale price for what will post on their site.
Stork brokers has a look and feel similar to an ebay for baby. The principle is similar to swapbabygoods.com but instead of just listing after listing, you set up your own store for goods that you want to sell. It is also an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau and works with Paypal, so you can pay and get paid with credit cards assuming you have a Paypal account.
Kindercycle is a site that helps you find swap events where you can drop off your old kids gear and pick up new stuff all for free. It is not a trade-for-trade system, so you take what you need and leave what you no longer use; there is no one counting on either end. Availability is once again dependent on what other people are leaving.
Regardless of what age you child is, they are going to need new clothes, and while relying on only one of the above strategies is likely to find you with holes in a wardrobe or paying more to fill in, if you combine you efforts there is a good chance you will never have to pay full price for children’s clothes again.
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