How to clothe the dears without breaking the bank.....
When I had my son he was a preemie and luckily made it home from the hospital. At the time I had more money than brains (sigh) and the thought of clothing him in second hand clothes was at the very least upsetting. Even Baby Gap wouldn't do. No, this little bundle of joy was wrapped in the finest of threads from upscale European children's shops. I thought nothing of spending $30 on a tshirt for an infant...one which he would vomit on repeated. I thought that in order to be a good mother he had to be wearing hip and trendy clothes. The ones that make people stop and ooh and ahh. The frugal Gods really need to come down and slap me up side the head.
Now I spend about $150 a year on each child, if that. That includes everything, shoes, outerwear etc. And they look equally cute and people still stop and ooh and ahh. Maybe it was the kids all along and not the clothes!
How do you do this mistress of all things frugal you may ask? Well, first thing was I got off my high horse about second hand stores. Secondly I realize that kids get really dirty and destroy their clothes. This whole thing about kids playing helping their development....and I also realized that if your children are presentable, meaning clean, hair combed and no fingers up their nose...nobody passes judgement on your parenting. Kind of cool huh?
I refuse to buy underwear, socks, bathing suits and shoes/boots second hand. And of course these can be the most expensive items. I do the following things to reduce the expense:
- when I find running shoes on sale I buy one of every size. They need indoor shoes at school so they will always get worn. I try to mix up the color and style a bit because it would be boring wearing the same shoe for the next 2 or 3 years.
- when Payless has their BOGO sales (buy one get one) I take advantage of these. The sale does not apply to just shoes. I buy slippers this way, again in multiple sizes. If the sale comes just before summer this is when sandals are purchased. I have also bought backpacks, umbrellas, socks etc. The key is to buy all items on sale so you are double dipping. Many things like backpacks and socks are put away for them as gifts. Best deal I ever got there was 8 pairs of slippers for $9. Thank you kindly to the person at head office who decided to run this promotion during my mall's sidewalk sale. Total score!
- Wal-Mart starts lowering their price on winter boots even before the snow melts. Boots can be a bit hit or miss to buy ahead. I usually go 1.5 sizes ahead and let them wear extra socks. But boots can be a safe bet if you have several children. I would recommend buying non-gender colors like navy and black. Unless your son has a thing for Hanna Montana...
- swimsuits are now taken care of for my daughter until she is about 14...sad I know. But I picked them up at Real Canada Superstore for .98 each. I bought 10, one in each size. You can get great deals on suits its true...but not when they decide to grow overnight and you have to buy the first one off the rack because swimming lessons are in 15 minutes.
- I buy mega bags of sweat socks in only three colors: black, white and grey. These can be worn by any child. I will splurge and get something a little girly for my daughter but refuse to spend more than .50 on a pair.
- Underwear. Cripes do you see the cost of that stuff? Especially for girls? And imho it isn't all that well made. When I find well made underwear on sale I clear them out. Again in all the next sizes. Best deal was BUM brand ones, 6/$1. I bought enough to last her three years. (I buy 9 prs per week, figuring I will force myself to do laundry at some point during the week.) Last month I found 8 prs for $3. A good deal of a no name brand...I was a bit leery and bought one pack, brought them home and they washed up great. Sadly, when I got back there I only found 4 packages...but she is good for the next 3 years.
So we have the basics covered...on to the second hand shops.
First off I have to say that I think Value Village is a rip off. I may get roughed up a bit for saying that but come on...$5 for a kid's shirt I can get at Wal-Mart for $4. These people don't know their prices. The only time worth going is when they have the 50% off sale. Go early and be there when the doors open, if possible stick around for a bit because they are bringing out stuff nonstop.
Goodwill I find a bit more relaxed. I also get amazing deals. They have $2 sales where all the kids stuff is a Toonie. But last week I hit jackpot...everything was $1. Thank you Santa!!! I bought about 8 garbage bags worth for about $80. It was all new with tags flapping away or nearly new. Gap, Old Navy, Jacob Jr, Columbia etc. My daughter is set for many many summers to come..and my son got a few things as well. (He is a slow grower so things last longer.)
There are a couple tips to shopping these stores. This is what I personally found:
- best selection seems to be after a long weekend. I guess people are cleaning out closets etc. A couple weeks into the school year provides really good in season stuff. Guess the mommies are doing inventory. Also really good time to go is during bad weather. The store is nice and quiet.
- grab everything you like and put it in your cart. You can inspect it carefully before you go to pay, it allows you to see if you have outfits that will go together and it keeps somebody from snagging it on you. Make sure you go over it carefully for stains, check the zippers, look for missing buttons, check seams and also make sure you look at the bottom of pants and cuffs for wear.
- stay away from fashion colors. Hot pink may be in today but next year it can be out. You don't want your kids to look dated. What would Mr. Blackwell say?
- if you have a whole soccer team under your roof try and go for neutral colors. Navy, black, gray, red etc. A navy sweatshirt can look girly with a pink turtleneck underneath. Or you can get princess patches at the dollar store and add one. This way it can go through many kids...even if they just end up as play clothes.
- always travel with a list (I personally have a little book) of what they need or will be needing. It lets me know what to get so I don't over spend. I also have a set list of what I have on had for them. It will vary depending on your kids but for me the list is something like 3 sweatshirts, 2 sweaters, 3 shirts, 3 long sleeved tshirts etc. I buy ahead according to these numbers for them to grow into, topping up as they need things.
- be very careful with black, white and red. I find these colors show the most wear.
- if you see decent snowsuits and get them for $2 or $1 buy them. Extra snow pants are handy, especially if they come home wet from school and want to go out and play. And I have bought many a snowsuit for $2 and actually make a profit on them. (More on that in a moment.)
- always ask yourself would I have bought this item new? If you like the style, color and it would look good on your child...then the answer is yes. Don't buy for the sake of getting a good deal.
Quite often I have ended up dressing my kids for free. How? I sell the things on after they have out grown them. I do this on eBay, kijiji or one of the moms online communities. Sometimes I have made a huge profit. I bought a Tommy snowsuit brand new for $3 and sold it for $40. So it pays to pre-treat stains, make repairs and generally look after their clothes. Once you no longer need them they can be sold or if you can afford it, donate them to many of the deserving places that require them. Or you can just take them back to the shop.
And if you are a handy person there is also great deals on wool and fabric there as well. I bought 4M of Carebear polar fleece for $5. It was enough to make my daughter a pr of pjs and a sleep bag. I still have 2M left and will probably at some point make her a house coat. Or maybe a gift for another kiddo. Even if you can't really sew...pj pants are VERY easy to make and only take about 40 minutes to cut and stitch. If I can do it, you can as well. There are many videos on places like youtube that walk you through it.
Well you are thinking, this is great advice, but where am I going to put it all. Storage is very important to the frugal mom and it is something that we will get into at a later date. I can show you places to create storage that you didn't know exsisted.
Coming up next - How to (Ab)use a coupon ethically....