Clothing Kids on a Dime (Without Sacrificing Style!)

Am I the only one that gets serious green-eyed jealousy when I see kids all over social media in clothes and shoes that cost more than anything in my OWN closet??? I practically salivate over baby Zara or Crewcuts. And then there are those moccasins. You know the ones. It’s almost like a trophy of mommy-hood if your kids own a pair! But at full price, most name-brand children’s clothes are WAY outside of our current budget! Plus, do I really need to spend $40 on a pair of shoes that will get worn for six months, even if we could afford it?

That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking enjoyment out of finding cute clothes for your kids, as long as it doesn’t become a status symbol or something that’s taking up undue resources. You have to clothe them, so you might as well have fun while you’re at it, right? I have learned a LOT about getting deals on cute, name-brand kid’s clothing since Ella was born, and I thought I would pass on a little of what’s worked for me. Hopefully with these tips save you a little time, sanity, and moolah while you’re at it!

Keep in mind that Ella is only 19 months old, and while I have bought some clothes for her to grow into, I don’t have a ton of experience with buying anything over 5T. So these tips and the prices I cite might be more applicable to baby/toddler sizes! 🙂

1. Shop frequently: Now this may seem like the worst tip in the world! Obviously, this has to go hand in hand with a lot of self control, because you could probably fill a closet with stuff you want every time you enter a store/check out a website. A lot of people feel like they don’t even want to browse unless they have a chunk of money to spend, but unless you are checking in frequently, you won’t find the best deals. Shopping frequently allows you to watch items you want and wait for them to go on sale, and be the first to spot the sizes and styles you want when prices do drop. I find that Gap, Old Navy, Gymboree, Zara, and Boden have pretty good sales.

I have also found that shopping frequently helps me have a better idea of what price is actually a great deal for something, versus just ok, since I have seen prices rise and fall on a variety of products and brands. So I try to just check in at my favorite stores and sites, even if I am not looking for something specific, a few times a month just to see what they are offering and what I would be interested in when it goes on sale. Therefore, being picky and patient is an important aspect of this habit!

2. Have a budget: This seems obvious, since I am talking about shopping with meager funds 🙂 But what I mean is you need a system for setting aside money for kid’s clothes. Some people do monthly, some do it a few times a year with new seasons, etc. I recommend monthly, since that allows you to browse throughout the year as things go on sale at the end of a season, etc. However you want to do it, I recommend against just holding off for a long time and then spending money as you notice your kids really need new clothes, because then you tend to go out and just buy whatever is available, rather than what’s actually a good price. We did this for a few years but I have noticed a huge difference in the prices we pay for things now that it’s worked into our monthly budget.

3. Buy a few sizes ahead of time: This probably seems duh for seasoned moms, but this was something I had to learn the hard way! When your new baby is small, the 12-18mos size seems huge and SO far away. But before you know it your bundle of joy is a crazy toddler that has absolutely nothing to wear and you have to scramble to throw together a wardrobe at full price! So I have really tried to think ahead and buy things that are a few sizes too big as I happen to see them on a killer sale. And ONLY when they are truly a really good price!

Everything here is 2T or 3T for Ella to wear in the next year or two. And it was all $2-$5!

The best items to do this with are seasonal things like coats and swimsuits. Last year I didn’t even think about getting Ella a swimsuit until it was summer and we really wanted to hit up the pool! Thus, I went to Old Navy and paid $20 for a moderately cute swimsuit just because I wasn’t going to wait until I found a sale to take Ella swimming. Same thing with coats this fall; everything was full price because it was the beginning of the season but we really needed something warm for her, so $$$ went out the window. Thankfully I learned my lesson and I got her current swimsuit for $7 at the end of last summer, and she has a brand new down coat in her closet waiting for this winter that I scored after Christmas for $16. So BUY AHEAD OF TIME!

*I would just advise against being a crazy hoarder with boxes upon boxes of clothes for their kids 10 years down the line. Don’t buy anything crazy trendy ahead of time either–we really don’t know how long chambray is going to be a thing!

4. Buy used: this one is kind of “duh” as well, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it. But I think it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of great reasons to buy used besides saving money, like reducing waste and supporting a good cause (since most thrift stores are charities of some kind). In case you think there’s only nasty junk at thrift stores think again! While there is plenty of that, with a little digging I just found this the other day:

This is a little Crewcuts (J. Crew) shirt-dress! It was only $4. I was totally amazed to find it, and it has made me a thrifting believer.

My one caveat with second-hand shopping is just to have realistic expectations! It can be extremely hit or miss, so you have to shop frequently (see tip #1!) and be prepared to leave empty-handed. Therefore, if you don’t enjoy shopping, this might not be a pleasant option for you since it takes time. Also, items that get a lot of daily wear and tear like leggings, T-shirts, and pajamas, are usually pretty beat up by the time they get to this point–so don’t expect to only shop used because some things are super hard to find in good used condition. But things like dress clothes, sweaters, jackets, winter boots, etc. can be really great to find secondhand!

5. That being said….avoid children’s re-sale shops: I have nothing against the good people of Kid to Kid, but they are ripping you off. The same thing probably goes for other similar places (It was “Once Upon a Child” where I grew up). Think about it: they have to pay the people that sell them their used stuff, and then pay for the brick and mortar location, and to keep the place staffed. So a markup has to happen for them to keep their doors open and make a profit. These places DO have some cute merchandise, and it’s usually in good condition, but I really think you’ll find way better deals with new clearance items, or at other second-hand venues with a lower overhead.

Take the following for example:

I found this dress at Kid to Kid recently. The wrinkles could obviously be ironed out. It’s a cute enough dress but it’s not new this season or anything (obviously this is just my taste….I hope this doesn’t offend anyone!).
Ummm…..$15??? I like Gymboree, but I think that is wayyyy overpriced for a used dress that has obviously been washed and worn and isn’t super on trend. 
I found this dress at Gap on clearance for $10 (I would put Gap and Gymboree on the same price/quality level). And I’ve seen cheaper than that many times. So if price and value are your only considerations, re-sale shops aren’t your best bet. 

6. Don’t discount quality: There’s something to be said for buying something that is slightly more expensive, just because it is really well-made and will stand up to frequent wear, even if it isn’t the absolute cheapest thing you can find.

I have always been a huge fan of Boden–their kids stuff is adorable and classic. It IS much more expensive than I would usually be able to afford, but they have decent sales and if you join their mailing list they will sometimes just sent random $10 coupons. I used one of those on a two-pack of these leggings and so the final price was $14 for two pairs. That wasn’t as cheap as I could find at Old Navy or Target, but I get sick and tired of how dingy and pilly cheap leggings look after a few wears (not to mention see-through–I hate seeing a diaper through leggings!), and these ones have been worn SO MANY times and they are still so soft and thick! We are finally retiring them, only because they are now capris on Ella,

My point is, I DO think it’s worth it to spend a little more upfront for an item that will stand the test of time (and possibly make it through more than one child)! That being said, we all know that with kids, you can count on things getting stained, torn, lost, etc. So I practice this principle with caution and never pay full-price on anything, no matter how durable.

7. Finally….kids don’t really need that much stuff anyways: I saw this article floating around Facebook recently and I loved it. We have this perception that kids are crazy expensive, but the author is so right: we succumb to this pressure to provide our kids with a ton of “stuff,” when what they really need is love, one-on-one time, fresh air, trips to the library, time to be creative, etc.

Obviously we need to provide sufficient, seasonally appropriate clothes for our kids, but I don’t think they need as many outfits and options as we feel like they do. Ella has about one week’s worth of outfits, a few church dresses, a coat, swimsuit, a few pairs of pajamas, and two pairs of shoes. That’s it. We do laundry as needed and try to buy things that mix and match. At the end of the day, it’s just “stuff.” When we are old and our kids are grown up we really aren’t going to remember the outfits they wore (unless it’s something hilarious and cute like a swimsuit with a pioneer bonnet or something), but the moments we shared as a family.

See those cute robin’s-egg blue shorts? That St. George red dirt stained them beyond repair approximately 30 seconds after Ella wore them for the first time. It happens! But she had a fun time in the process of ruining them!

I have a really fun time shopping for Ella, so I hope these tips are helpful to you and help you avoid the stress and $$$ that can come with the constant turnover of clothes that kids bring along. BUT, at the end of the day, it will all be faded, stained, torn, or outgrown eventually, so don’t sweat the small stuff too much!

What are your favorite places to find deals for your kids? Any tips I missed? Tell me in the comments!

  • I just found your blog, I have a little girl a few months younger than yours so it's all very relevant! One place I love is Carter's, they have awesome deals especially at the outlet in Lehi. One question, how do you keep track of all the emails from stores? I got the gap emails once and they would send them everyday! I quickly got annoyed and unsubscribed.

  • Hey I was totally planning on hitting up the Lehi outlets next week! I will definitely have to check out the Carter's store. Thanks! And about emails….ugh I wish I had a system! I am a sucker and sign up for any and all email lists and then never looks at any of them! I probably delete 100 a day. And I bet I am missing out on sales and stuff because I am terrible and actually looking at them. If you find a good system let me know!