Every time I turn around it seems that my son has grown a little taller. He is no longer that tiny baby who can fit in the crook of my arm. I recognize his growth spurts by watching how far his legs dangle past the highchair or how high up the backseat his feet can now reach.
As he grows his clothes inevitably wind up in transport to the donation center, into a box waiting for consignment, (I have yet to drop this off anywhere), or placed into plastic bins labeled by size in my basement. His rapid growth is apparent in the stacked boxes labeled 0-3, 3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-18 and 18-24.
I have rules about how much clothing I’ll keep. The bins are relatively small and contain only items in the best possible shape. Anything with stains, worn out knees or that I don’t find super cute make their way out of the house. I’ve considered donating or selling everything at one time or another, but constantly convince myself to hold onto them a little longer.
I’m not sure if we’ll have another child and if we do I have no idea if they will be the same size, born at the same time of year or even be the same gender, but if all those things do fall into line then it certainly won’t hurt to keep them in our basement a little bit longer.
Over the past year and a half I’ve learned quite a few things about spending less on toddler clothing.
- I accept all hand-me-downs I’m offered. I comb through the boxes and bags and pull out anything that is too damaged to keep. I also take out most pants that don’t slip on and off easily. (This is a personal preference, but I find that my son wants to dress himself, and the fewer buttons and zippers he has to deal with the easier it becomes.)
- The items that remain are sorted and placed into bins by size. By sorting in advance I can pull out the appropriate items as soon as my son reaches the next size. Then I can determine what items he might need. For instance, I’ve received a ton of shorts and pants, but no shirts or sweatshirts. This helps me figure out what I need to buy.
- When my son reaches the next size I buy a limited amount of clothing at the start of the season. For example, when summer began my son primarily wore size 18-24. Clothes are always most expensive at the start of the season, so I aim to buy as little as I can at that time. I can walk into the same store in the middle of the summer and buy items for 50% less then I could in late spring. Prices are cheaper as the season wears on, but buying less also ensures that the clothes will actually fit my son. Children grow fast and what fits one week might not fit the next.
- When I do need to purchase clothing I head straight to the clearance section. Most of the time I find clothes that are just as cute as the ones currently selling for full price. If I shop at Gymboree I ask the cashier if they have any sale items in my son’s size. Sometimes they have additional merchandise stored away in their stock room and on more than one occasion I paid as little as $2 or $3 for brand new items. My local thrift store lists prices for $2 or $3 so I can buy new items for the same price as I would pay for used ones.
- I keep an eye out for anything my son wears year round. My son swims year round so I know he’ll need swim trunks and rashes and constantly keep an eye out for new ones in larger sizes. I scour the discount racks and buy one, two and even three sizes larger than he currently wears. This is a bit of a pain in terms of storage, but I feel the cost benefit is worth it. These items don’t take up a lot of room and buying swimsuits off season can be unbelievably expensive.
- Stained clothing isn’t discarded until it’s outgrown. My son loves to play outside and I am often amazed by just how dirty one little boy can get playing in the back yard. He is often covered in dirt, mud, grass and a whole host of other stains, so any clothes that are accidentally stained and damaged immediately become play clothes.
- I try to avoid feeling guilty for making my son adorable. I take a lot of pictures of my son and I must admit that I do like to dress him in adorable little clothes. Since I buy items at discounted prices or receive them as hand-me-downs I try not to feel guilty about spending money to buy them. Toddler clothing is quite cute, but in a few years the clothes really do become quite mundane. I’m willing to spend a little money to make my son adorable.
- I gauge the needs of my son’s wardrobe. I know how often we wash clothes, how often we play outside or complete crafts or anything else that gets messy, how often it might be hot outside (requiring sleeveless shirts) and how often we might have cool evenings. While none of this is set in stone it does allow us to have fewer items on hand. I don’t want to look back on my son’s wardrobe and find a bunch of unworn items hanging in his closet with the tags still attached.
- I rarely buy discounted items that my son doesn’t wear them year round. I haven’t actually figured out whether or not this is a wise technique. Items that are truly seasonal like shorts and pants can be difficult to size in advance. I never know exactly what size my son may wear, so I feel this is hit-or-miss and usually skip the bargain for fear that the money will be wasted. I can usually find discounted items when the need arises, so I try to avoid spending too much in advance.
How about you? Do you have any tricks for spending less on clothing for your kids?