February 21, 2014

ten tips for building your child's wardrobe on a budget

I consider my children to be well-dressed. As in, they are appropriately dressed for the season and the occasion. I think they always look pretty darn cute, even though they don't have the hippest clothes out there. The most amazing part of this is that I hardly ever buy them clothes, and when I do I don't spend much at all. Here are a few tips I've learned over the last 3.5 years that have helped me to keep the clothing budget low:

1. Keep this in mind: it's okay to not have the trendiest kid on the playground.Your kid may be the cutest, but if you're on a strict budget, your children will not be donning the adorable vintage dresses or Baby Gap onesies that the other children do. And that's okay. A child can have just as much fun in second hand Osh Kosh as they can in Baby Boden.

2. Say "yes" to hand-me-downs. Always. No matter what. Say "yes". Whatever you don't use you can always give back or hand down to someone else.

3. Ask to borrow specific items you need. Luckily for me, I have a lot of friends with kids who are open to sharing and swapping clothes back and forth. When I need to fill in particular gaps in my kid's wardrobe, I usually ask my friends who have older kids if I can borrow the item I need. For example, I needed dress shoes to go with Elle's Christmas dress (a hand-me-down). I asked a good friend who has three older girls. She not only had the perfect little pair of shoes in Elle's size, but also offered tights to match. Money spent on Elle's Christmas outfit = zero dollars.

4. Shop garage sales over consignment stores. From my experience, consignment prices are always too high. However, people having garage sales are usually in a purging mood and will generally just want to get rid of all their kids' old clothes.

5. Splurge on important pieces. By "important" I don't mean those size 2T True Religion jeans you want for your toddler. "Important" means the practical stuff. Buy good cold weather gear, for example. I was able to splurge on a nice new pair of Bog boots for Eleanor so she can go puddle jumping with James. I justified spending forty dollars on a pair of kids shoes because we hardly ever have to buy clothes for Eleanor; when I have, they have been second-hand and extremely inexpensive.
Tip #1 is important to keep in mind here, because practical and trendy do not always go hand-in-hand. Sadly, Bog boots do not come in hipster chevron or bohemian tapestry, so Elle is stuck with neon pink. But, her feet are warm and dry on our outdoor adventures.

6. Remember: kids do not need as many clothes as you may think. After all, they will grow out of their current outfit in about five minutes. Even when my children have a chock full closet, they always end up wearing the same few outfits over and over. You really only need a few basic, comfortable pieces for them.

For when you absolutely must go out and shop for clothes for your kids:

7. Make a list. Like you do with groceries. Write down exactly what your kids need in which sizes and how many. Do not stray from your list.

8. Go straight to the clearance section. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.... because you will spend it. Shop the clearance. We have had great luck with Old Navy clearance. James has about a half dozen long-sleeved shirts we bought for as little as $2.50 a piece.

9. Don't be fooled by coupons. Often times they exclude clearance, or even sale prices. Coupons also usually have a minimum, so you will end up buying more than you need.

10. Shop online. If you shop from home, it may be easier to stick to your list than if you go into the store and get distracted by all the cute clothes on half-sized manikins. Additionally, there is generally better availability of items online versus at the store.

Are these tips helpful? Are they things you already do? What tips do you have for buying kids clothes?

I would love more advice as my kiddos get older and need more and more clothing!



  1. I really like this blog! It's hard, even for us mommies who know all the above, to not fall in the "oh but that is so cute and he/she needs this" moments when surrounded by advertisements, magazines, and other sources. Last summer, I did make a list of what I thought each girl needed for the next year (since I buy during the summer for the next year while abroad) and STILL ended up with too much! We are saving most of Aberly's clothes for Emalyn as she grows.

    We are total hand-me-down, clearance, and garage sale believers! I also agree with splurging on really good stuff, but also trying to find it in the aforementioned sources. I have found a near-perfect Columbia kids snow bib at Goodwill for $4.99. It's out there!

    Other good sources to watch are local Facebook "Mommy Buy/Sell" type groups, as well as Craigslist. You just have to keep a daily watch on them to catch the good deals.

  2. I also found an awesome little kid snow suit at Goodwill! That is definitely a hit-or-miss in this area, there is always a strange assortment of kids clothes there... I totally forgot about Craigslist, I need to check that more often! Thanks Kelsey!