**I have to apologize in advance for the length of this post. It seems that I'm somewhat passionate about this topic so once I get started, I just can't seem to stop! I hope you don't fall asleep while reading!**
It's no secret that kids are expensive. Keeping them in clothes that fit when they grow like weeds is a difficult task! However, there are ways to get good brand names clothes, in excellent condition, without buying new and spending a fortune. Of course, it requires a little bit of planning. My system isn't necessarily going to be everyone's answer but it works well for me. Kids grow and they tend to grow fast. Luckily, my son is past that stage of having to buy clothes in a different size every few months like when he was an infant. However, he's at the age where he wears out clothing quite quickly. He's a boy. Boys are active. And tough on EVERYTHING. Including their clothes.
First and foremost, you've got to know what you've got and what you need. I typically write out a list of what items I'm going to need for each season. I usually do this at least a year in advance and my list is pretty similar from year to year. For example, my list for Tyler's fall clothes looks something like this:
- 8-10 pairs of underwear
- 8-10 pairs of socks (I always buy white socks and usually the same brand of white socks so that they can be matched up easily after doing laundry)
- 5-7 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of khakis
- 1 pair of black cordouroy pants
- 1 pair of brown/tan cordouroy pants
- tennis shoes
- 1 pair black shoes
- 1 pair brown shoes
I don't usually have to define a set number of shirts because almost any top I buy will match at least one of the pairs of pants above. That's where knowing what I've already got on hand comes in handy.
What I do is write out the list and keep it in my day planner (which fits in my purse and goes everywhere with me) so that I always have it on hand when shopping. I hit the stores at the end of the seasons when everything is on sale. If I can get clothes on deep clearance from Gap, Old Navy, Childrens Place, Ralph Lauren, or other brand name stores then I'll buy clothes a size or two bigger than what he is currently wearing. Then, I start marking off what I've bought on my list. I store everything in a Rubbermaid tub that sits in the bottom of his closet. However, I would venture to say that only 30-40% of Tyler's wardrobe is new and comes directly from a retail store. Most of his clothes come from yard sales, thrift stores or consignment sales.
I will preface this by saying that my son is always dressed in great condition brand names clothes and shoes. Goes hand in hand with that champagne taste on a beer budget mentality that I have. I am extremely lucky enough to live in an area where yard sales happen pretty much March through October so there's never a shortage of yard sales to surf. I also happen to LOVE the activity of yard sale surfing so it's not like it's an inconvenience for me. I will surf Craigslist on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to find yard sales in my area that mention that they will be selling kids clothes. Good yard sale ads will define what gender/sizes the clothes are and then really good ads will preview what kinds of brands will be sold. However, if the ad doesn't say, I will email the poster and ask. Many people will respond and that helps me to determine whether or not that sale needs to be added to my Saturday morning plan. Now, I don't go to yard sales every Saturday. Not even close. Out of the four (most months!) Saturdays in a month, I probably only go to yard sales one Saturday a month. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I have found some of the best deals on clothes for myself and my son at yard sales. For example, for Tyler, I found a North Face jacket for $3, Rainbow sandals for $2, GAP Jeans for $.50 a pair and a Ralph Lauren button up for $1. I found a Brand New with Tags BCBG sweater (still had price tag of $158 attached!) for myself for only $3! My best ever deal was a fleece North Face pullover for myself for $.50-- FIFTY CENTS!!! It was awesome!
Another avenue that I have for getting great brand name kids' clothes for cheap are consignment sales. For those of you who are unfamiliar with consignment sales, they are sales where a bunch of different owners will get together and "lend" their items to the owner of the consignment sale or shop for sale. Once the item sells, the owner will get a percentage of the sales price and the owner of the sale or shop will take their cut. In my town, there are a bunch of different consignment sales that happen at least twice a year: usually in Fall and Spring. My favorite consignment sale, Ring Around the Rosy, is having their Fall sale right now. There are a couple of reasons that I like this sale so much:
- They take a lot of consignors--200--where as other sales don't take quite as many consignors so their selections aren't usually as large. RAR has a great selection of different sizes because they allow so many consignors.
- The Ring Around the Rosy sale is held over 4 weekends. Most sales happen over only one day or one weekend. With this sale being held over several weekends, it allows shoppers more flexibility in getting there to get a good deal and the owners of the sale typically put out new items each week.
It is at this sale that I get the majority of Tyler's clothes. I may shop throughout the entire year as I find great deals here and there from clearance racks at my favorite stores and then the gems that I find at yard sales, but it's at consignment sales where I round out the list of what I'm needing for the upcoming season.
So, last week, when the Ring Around the Rosy sale opened for its first day, I headed to the sale with my list in hand and shopped my little heart out. The deals that I find at these sales are absolutely amazing. Rather than take my word for it, just check out some of the items I scored below. In order to get the retail price, I went online and looked up exact or very similar items that are currently selling on each retailer's website and used that price for the full retail price.
Brand New, Never Worn Sketchers black & yellow tennis shoes -- Retail Price: $37.00, I paid $5.50
Mossimo (Target) brand brown shoes -- Retail Price: $19.99, I paid $4.00
Lands End Snow Boots -- Retail Price: $44.50, I paid $3.00
Old Navy corduroy pants -- Retail Price: $19.94, I paid $3.00
GAP red hoodie sweatshirt -- Retail Price: $32.95, I paid $4.00
Gymboree shirt -- Retail Price $21.95, I paid $4.00
Overall, if I had paid retail price for everything, I would have spent $176.33. But, by shopping at a consignment sale instead, I spent only $23.50. See the difference? Huge.
Some of you might think that I'm nuts for putting my son in secondhand clothes. I was there once. Before I had my son, I was so completely snobby and thought that there was NO WAY that my son was ever going to wear anything second hand. Oh boy those words tasted bitter when I had to eat them. It wasn't long before I realized that kids grow so. extremely. fast. Keeping up with their changing clothes sizes is a job in itself! Keeping up with the expense that goes along with buying new clothes is really difficult on a limited budget. I started looking into other options that would allow me to get Tyler the high quality, brand name, and really cute clothes that I wanted him to wear while minimizing the hit to my wallet. I found that yard sales, thrift stores and consignment sales really are a gift! Sometimes you have to dig, but there are treasures to be found!
What ways do you have to get cute clothes cheaply? Do you shop thrift stores or yard sales? What awesome deals have you found?