Even before you have children (or are pregnant), the temptation to buy adorable children’s clothes may begin. Quickly growing children, changing of seasons, and new trends may continue to feed the addiction of kids clothes shopping. You could break the bank buying clothes for your little ones. The sooner you learn to get clothes for your children inexpensively or free, the more you’ll be able to contribute to their college fund (or pay off your debts, as is the case around here).
Here are six ways to get great kids clothes at a fraction of the retail rack!
Children’s clothing items at thrift stores run anywhere from $.50 to $3 per item. To get even more bang for you buck, see if your thrift store has a half-price day or a certain color tag or certain department that is half off that day.
I seem to find better deals on name brand clothes at stores that do general pricing, rather than pricing each item individually. For example, the thrift store closest to me has all kids clothes priced at $1.75. The Gymboree dress with the tags still on it is the same price as the no-name denim overalls with threadbare knees. I would probably get the dress (either to keep or to re-sell), but I would definitely leave the overalls. Stores with blanket pricing are a great place to find name brands at low prices.
On the other hand, I find better deals on the whole when items are priced individually. If I don’t care about the brand, I prefer stores that price clothes individually. My favorite thrift store is a little further from my house, but when I am in that part of town, I always stop in. From my experience, one of the main criteria in pricing items is the brand. If I don’t care about the brand (just the condition), I can usually get a much better deal at stores that price items individually.
Whenever you’re shopping for used clothing, be sure to check the items thoroughly for stains and wear. Be sure the zippers work and buttons are intact.
At garage sales kids clothes usually range from $.25 to $1 each, though coats, dresses, and shoes may be a little more. In the last two places I have lived, $.25 to $.50 has been the norm. Remember that prices at yard sales are always negotiable. Just politely ask “Would you take $__ for this?” They will likely say yes. Sometimes they will cut you a deal if you buy a lot or let you stuff a bag for a flat price. If you see many things that you are interested in, don’t be afraid to ask “Would you take $__ for this whole bin?” then you can sort them out at home.
I find the best time to go to yard sales is either near the opening time or right around the closing time. At the opening time, you will get the best selection. When prices are general ($.25 per item) rather than priced individually, you will find the best deals. Of course, the cutest, cleanest, nicest things will sell first. It’s definitely worth waking up early on Saturday morning!
Near the end of the sale, sellers do not want to have to pack up all their leftovers, so they will make you good deals. Sometimes they will do a general “half price on everything” during the last hour of their sale. I have even driven by sales where all their unsold items are sitting on a tarp at the curb with a “FREE” sign. If you wake up late, all is not lost.
There are still great deals waiting for you! I get excited when I see plastic tubs of kids clothes at yard sales. The sellers have not taken the time to price items individually or display them well, so they will likely not be charging as much for their clothes. Also, other shoppers won’t want to take the time to dig through the bin of clothes, so there are many untouched treasures. For a little extra effort (squatting down and digging), I always find great bargains for my little ones.
Try organizing a clothing swap with your church or community group where everyone brings their outgrown clothes (and other household items they no longer need). Put signs on the tables to organize clothes by gender and approximate size. When the ladies come, have them set out the items they brought in the proper categories on the tables. Then let everyone take what they need.
Consider organizing a swap in conjunction with a play date, exercise class, or other fun excuse to get together with other moms. You could even make it a potluck “Soup and Swap.” There’s always a better turnout when there’s food!
Target is probably my favorite store for end-of-season clearance, with Old Navy close behind. Since I can find used clothes so inexpensive, I usually wait until things are marked down to 75% off before I will take a serious look at clothes. With holiday clothing, I can even get 90% off sometimes! Old Navy often has “Price Cleanser” sales where you take 50% off the clearance price. I stock up on baby shower gifts when I find cute, brand new outfits for $1 or less.
I always buy ahead for my family, so when winter coats are 75% off, I buy the sizes I expect my kids to be in the next year. When they are babies, I sometimes buy more than a year ahead. I leave the tags on until my kids are ready to wear them. That way if they never wear them, I can sell them or give them as gifts.
Sewing Your Own
Growing up, my mom often sewed matching Easter and Christmas dresses for my two sisters and me. That’s a tradition I wanted keep in my family. While I don’t usually sew everyday clothes like shirts and pants, I love sewing dresses an skirts a couple times a year for my daughter and making matching bow ties or neckties for my boys. I also sew pajamas for my kids.
The argument against sewing clothes is the price of fabric and the time required. I have a fabric stash that I have accumulated mostly for free. I also get creative by repurposing sheets and other fabric items. There are no quick tricks to make up for the time it takes to make quality children’s clothing, but I can tell you that the more often you sew, the faster you will get.
For me, it is totally worth it to spend time to sew special clothes for my children. It’s an act of love and they feel it. They watch their clothes come to life and see the effort I put in to making them. They treasure their handmade clothes and love to tell people “Mommy made this just for me!” Maybe when they are older they will not appreciate it as much, but for now, it’s a great way to show love for my children.
Hand-me-downs are free! Talk to friends or family who have kids older (or bigger) than your kids and see if you can have their outgrown clothes. When my first son was born, my sister gave me bags and bags of boys clothes from her son who is 3 years older. I didn’t have to buy clothes for him for the first couple years (though that didn’t stop me from snagging some great buys at yard sales and thrift stores here and there ).
You can find affordable clothes online from shops that specialize in selling gently used clothes. While their prices are often higher than you’d find at a yard sale, it’s really convenient to be able to search by color or specific clothing item without. For example, if I need to find a black skirt in size 6 for my daughter, it’s much easier to browse online than to run around to every thrift store in town and hope to happen upon what I’m looking for.
Many of the online used clothes shops give you credit when you sign up as a new customer. You get $10 from Thredup and $10 from Schoola. I like to keep an eye out for free shipping and other promotions to add to these deals.
How About You?
- What other ways do you save on kids clothes?
This post contains referral links. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.
You Might Also Enjoy: