As the mother of three active children, I know that providing a decent wardrobe can get expensive. My two oldest children are twins so hand-me-downs don’t work. Like most parents I want to see my children looking attractive in clean, comfortable clothing that is durable but doesn’t cost a fortune. Realizing that desire, however, can be difficult.
First, buy quality clothing. I’ve learned through trial and error that my grandfather’s favorite saying – buy cheap, get cheap – is true. Cheap doesn’t always mean inexpensive, either. Whether you’re shopping at the local discount store or a mall department store, check the quality of clothing. Turn garments inside out and check the seams. Loose or hanging threads are not the mark of quality clothing that will last. Look for loosely sewn hems. Look for durable materials – like denim and khaki – that will outlast thinner fabrics.
Another way to find quality clothing is to buy name brand clothing – Carter’s, for example – on sale. Look for sales and buy at the end of the season for next year. Winter coats are more expensive in the autumn and early winter but after the holidays, many winter coats and other cold weather clothing will be discount priced. Some of the best savings I’ve made on winter wear have been in the late winter or in the spring.
Another trick is to keep in mind that the difference between one size and the next is not always much. Get more wear from your child’s clothing by buying one size up as long as the garment is not too big or baggy. That extra sleeve length or hemline may last longer on an always growing child.
Mix and match garments to create more outfits choices with less clothing. This is one of my favorites. Start with a pair of blue jeans or denim skirt. Add a sweater, a blouse or shirt, or a vest for different looks. Stay within a color scheme – purple and gold for one child, rose and pink for another, blue and green for another. If most of a child’s clothing coordinates, they can create more multiple outfits than if they own clothing in a rainbow of colors.
Consider consignment shops. This isn’t a suggestion for any parent to garb their child in grubby used clothing or faded, worn garments. Many consignment shops today offer clean, neat, barely worn clothing for a fraction of the retail price. Most are bright, well lit, attractive shops where parents just like you are making a little back from outgrown clothing. Just be wise – check the overall condition of the clothing, look for any rips or damages, and don’t overlook stains that may not wash out. If you like the shop, consider loading up some gently worn clothing to sell as well.
Be creative. If your daughters have reached the upper end of girls’ sizes, check what is available in the Tweens or juniors section. A very helpful sales clerk gave me the tip – a size 0, 2, or 3 will fit many young girls in the 14-18 sizes. This broadens the choices available. I’ve bought my girls many pairs of boys jeans and sweaters and even winter coats from the boys department for the simple reason that some boy clothing is made more durable than clothing for girls. Apparently manufacturers expect more rough and tumble from the little guys than from little girls! Unfortunately, this reverse method doesn’t help parents of boys.
If you’re handy with a needle and sewing machine, make clothing for the kids. Material costs far less than ready made garments so if you have the time and inclination, sew away and save. I’ve always made my children’s Halloween costumes and other garments. If you’re not into sewing, see if your mother, grandmother or other family member has any interest.
Another way to think outside the box is to buy winter coats from the sporting goods department. Sizes range from toddlers and up. Whether the coats have a camouflage print or not, most are made to be durable, waterproof, and warm. I discovered this myself a few years ago. Each morning when I walked my children down our long rural lane to the bus stop, I froze. I bought a heavy camouflage coat and I’ve been warm ever since. The coats I bought the kids at the mall for last winter did not wear well at all. The nylon fabric ripped easily at recess and the kids complained about being cold.
This year, I bought winter coats for all three from sporting goods. The cost for all three is less than I paid for a single coat last year. The new coats are durable and cozy.
If the kids object to a camouflage coat, consider dressing them in layers with a warm jacket or hoodie.
Hand-me-downs are always a possibility but don’t limit the choices to your own family. A cousin of mine who has a daughter the same age as my girls and I share clothing. Ask neighbors or close friends too. They may be more willing than you think to rid their closets of outgrown garments.
Shoes are one thing I will not buy used but I make sure that the kids are equipped with quality footwear. Spend a few more bucks at the beginning of the school year and save in the long run. I’ve learned that cheap and discount store shoes last a few months at most. Buy leather shoes from another retailer and watch the shoes last the school year.
These are just some of the ways I’ve found that help me get the most for the money when clothing my children. It works for me and it can work for you as well!