When dressing my son I try to use a three-fold approach to buying his clothes in a cost-effective way.  I purchase stylish, nice clothes and it doesn’t make my wallet even a little queasy.  The three steps are:  The back of the store technique, the used name brand technique, & the selective picking technique.

1. The Back of the Store Technique: Do this first (but all year round) in anticipation of the next season.  This is clearance rack shopping for the upcoming season (sometimes you get lucky and get something in season).  Most clearance racks are at the back of the store which is why I call this the Back of the Store Technique.  You should always look on the clearance racks when  you go into stores and always have a little stash of money to buy things when they are on sale. You are doing this in advance so that you can build up a good supply, and because things go on clearance usually at the end of the season.

For instance, Wal-mart will usually clearance out their clothes for as little as $1 per item.  Every time you are in Wal-mart, Target or any other superstore definitely take a peek at their clearance racks to see if you can get any bargains.  If I get $1 or $2 deals I will buy 1 of every kind and color in the size/gender that I need.  This is the same for shoes (which is budget busters as we all know!).  You might be surprised that you can get some REALLY good deals at stores like Babies R Us, Carter’s, Gymboree, and some of the more expensive stores, and don’t forget J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s or more expensive department stores.  I got the shoes featured in this article at Kohl’s for around $10 on clearance.  I will outfit my son in them in the fall.  Keep in mind that regular no-name tennis shoes at Wal-mart are about $12 in his age range.   These will have good resale value (more on that later)

You can see in the picture to the right items of clothing, (18 months). There are 3 pants and 10 shirts & 1 two piece set.  The two piece set was $2 and all the clothes were $1-$2, bought at different times and set aside for the fall.  These along with a couple other shirts (not pictured) were all bought for under $20.  This will be a very big part of my son’s clothing for the fall and winter.

The bulk of this was purchased at Wal-mart but you can get great deals anywhere.  These are your wardrobe space fillers.  Nice quality clothes that you don’t really mind getting dirty or that can fill in the gaps, and honestly you can get some really good stuff!  This should be about 1/2 of your child’s clothing.

2. The Used Name Brand Technique: Now it’s time to get the other half of your clothing.  This is when you add in your name brands, whichever name brands you are partial.  For my son I like the look of Baby Gap clothing & Children’s Place.  I have a young son, but honestly this can translate to older kids as well, the key is in the presentation (as some older kids may turn their nose up at gently used clothing).  First rule of thumb is don’t buy used junk!  I only buy quality clothes used, almost always name brands, but that’s for resale reasons (did I mention, more on that later!) than the name brand…mostly I just want stuff that’s CUTE!

There are 3 main ways to get used clothing, but the BEST way to get quality used clothes is through eBay (though there are now a variety of awesome sites specializing in used clothes).  So we’ll say option #1 is through the internet (mainly eBay).  It’s the best because you can surf from your living room chair, have the clothes delivered to you, and have tons of things to choose from to get exactly what you want for a great price.  When using eBay search for LOTS (meaning a lot, or a set of clothes, more than one item) of clothes in the size you want.  Occasionally you can find individual items, but you get the best deal with lots.  Auctions (as opposed to Buy it Now’s) are usually the best deals and please refrain from bidding until this last-minute (resist the urge you will only bid up the price of the item!).  If you do not win the item, it is okay there will be hundreds of other lots you will want just as much!

The #2 and cheapest option (usually) is to go to Garage Sales.  You can find some awesome clothing at them and usually at the cheapest price per piece (with no shipping and handling).  The problem with Garage Sales is that it’s a very hit and miss adventure, also that it’s seasonal.  Still, if you put a little time into going to a few (even the ones you just see in your neighborhood) you will be rewarded with some really nice finds.  Kids grow so fast that most people with children have clothes in perfect condition that have barely been worn.  Some are as little as 25 cents apiece.  I will usually not pay over $1 per piece at a yard sale unless it is something really special in really good condition, because I know it’s hard to resale your clothes over that price!

The #3 and least desirable option is thrift and resale shops.  Now I am in no way against thrift shops.  I used to frequent a great one which sold their baby clothes for 50 cents apiece and you could find some great items.  It’s the least desirable because they tend to be more expensive than the other options with less variety.  Most good stuff is picked over at a cheap thrift store, and the more expensive resale stores are … well…expensive!  Still I encourage trips to see what you can find!

3. The Selective Picking Technique: Now, by this point you’ve purchased lots of clearance merchandise months ago, and you’ve stocked up on bulk quality used clothing from eBay and a little garage sale shopping, etc.  You are pretty well stocked and your child is dressed better than little Suri or Sasquatch or whatever people are naming their celebrity kids that week.  At this moment you walk past Gymboree (or Aerie, or Calvin Klein, or Macy’s) and you see the cutest little outfit that you just MUST have.  Hopefully you’ve only used up about half of your clothes budget through my cost saving tips.  If so, now is the step when you either 1) very selectively pick things you want in season or 2) put the money in the bank.

Honestly, it’s a personal decision.  I do buy my son in season clothes but I can say I would still never pay full price – unless it’s super inexpensive.  I’m just too darn cheap!  If I see something really cute and it’s on sale I might buy it, but I’m so darn addicted to the first 2 methods that I hate spending over a couple bucks for clothes!  When I know I can get name brand clothing for $1 in perfect condition I can’t throw down $25 for a pair of pants.  I just can’t!  The rule of thumb here should be that it should either be really cheap or really cute. Don’t spend a lot on anything plain or boring when you can get the same thing (plain khaki pants for instance) much cheaper! If you had your eye on some couture hair bows, handmade items, super cute hoodies, etc. by all means this is the time to buy them up!  Use the remainder of your budget for those!

I hope that this article has helped you in some way.  I know it was long but keep in mind it is totally customizable to your lifestyle.  I hope to give you some good ideas from my life that will translate into your own savings.

Note on reselling: I bet you thought I forgot!

Now, some of you may not even care about brand names.  I don’t put that much stock into them myself.  Keep in mind one thing, however: brand names re-sale better than non-brand names.  I sell my son’s clothes after he’s done with them.  So, I get almost all the money back on the used brand name clothes I buy.  I probably get half on the non-brand names.  Always remember that not only do you save money, but buying used clothing that is quality will retail for almost the same amount when you sell it back (as long as it’s kept in good condition).  Then you take that money that you make from the sale of the clothes and put it towards next seasons wardrobe.  I will write an article going into depth on how to resell your children’s clothes later.

It should also be noted that I probably buy my son way too many clothes.  If you are better than me, you can save even more money by trimming down the quantity!

Get it!  Good…now go dress your kid in style, on the cheap (and go sell their old stuff)


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10 Responses so far.

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Great article! Don’t forget Mom2Mom Sales! They have them around the same time as craft shows, in the spring and the fall. At least that’s how they are here in Michigan. Oh, and never leave the house without looking online for coupons for stores you plan to go to. My two favorite coupon sites are retailmenot.com and naughtycodes.com

  2. Jennifer says:

    I have never been to a Mom2Mom sale but I’m assuming they are on the same price range as say a garage sale?

    Also the Entertainment Book, and if you have advance notice eBay is a good place to get specific coupons, and of course the trusty newspaper!

    I didn’t mention it but stores like TJ Maxx, Ross & Marshall’s are also great for picking up name brands at low prices, they also have clearance for double savings!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    mom2moms are supposed to have garage sale prices, but some people are outrageous. I saw a pair of footie pjs for $8 once. I sold all my baby clothes for a quarter a piece, so there is definitely a range of prices.

  4. cevon says:

    I didn’t know that.

  5. Lissa says:

    This atricle keeps it real, no doubt.

  6. tattoo says:

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  7. Nice post, I really like this post style.

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