Close your eyes for a few seconds and recall some of your fondest childhood memories. Where were you? What were you doing? Playing in the rain or snow? Enjoying an amusement park? Riding horses?
My bet is that you were wearing jeans and a t-shirt with sneakers, and you didn’t give a RIP about what label was on any part of it. That’s what children enjoy wearing! I looked back through years of photos of my children for evidence. Sure enough: at many memorable events over the years, my children were dressed very comfortably in jeans or shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers!
Mindset for Children’s Clothing
Kids’ clothing should be:
– comfortable – maybe a little oversized
– clean, no stains
– in good repair – no holes, seam rips, frayed hems, or missing buttons
– versatile – match multiple different items in the wardrobe
Children’s clothes do NOT have to be expensive or brand new. Kids don’t care if their jeans cost $10 or $100, as long as they are comfortable! Advertising and popular culture tell us kids’ clothing should be stylish and FABULOUS! They would have us clothe infants in Nike tennis shoes and Tommy Hilfiger jeans. That is simply a waste of money when they grow so quickly. They outgrow clothes very quickly until they are adults.
Here’s the good news: you CAN create really cute wardrobes for children on the cheap!
Hand-me-down clothing has a negative connotation, but it has been a HUGE blessing for my family! Some people are squeamish about used clothing, so that’s an issue you’ll need to ponder for yourself. I used hand-me-downs for our four children whenever I could, and it really helped our budget.
Hand-me-downs aren’t just for siblings. One of my friends sent me clothes her baby outgrew for my first child, Jessica. As the two girls grew, hers was extremely tall, and mine was very petite; the arrangement continued to work really well! Clothes that fit and were seasonally appropriate were kept and worn. The items that didn’t fit or were out of season were donated to others.
Yard Sales are a GOLD MINE for children’s clothes! I always looked for clothing at the current or next size up for my children. If Jess was wearing 2T pants, I would look at anything 2T or above for her at yard sales. I stored the oversized items in a labeled bin in the attic until she began to outgrow the 2T items.
At yard sales, I could find OshKosh B’gosh, Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, and other name-brand clothing for my children at a price of $1 – $5 each. THIS I could afford. These brands are sturdy, well-made, and long-lasting. I love “Yard-Saling.”
Thrift stores are a wonderful option for children’s clothes! You can find seasonal items at the right time! When it was time for dressy outfits for Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, our thrift store would have those items prominently displayed. These outfits are sometimes worn only once, so I rarely bought them at retail prices. I found so many cute things for the children over the years, and I have great pictures to prove it!
In an earlier post, I mentioned you should NOT shop as a hobby when you are trying to be frugal (10 Ways to Spend Less Money NOW). However, if there’s a going-out-of-business sale or seasonal clearance, USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE! Look for basic pieces that will expand your children’s wardrobes – especially good blue jeans.
We happened upon a going-out-of-business sale a few weeks ago, and we bought each family member 5 or 6 t-shirts and some shorts. We spent less than $80 total for about $800 worth of clothes!
What if used clothing isn’t perfect?
Stains are the most frequent problem with used baby clothes. A consignment shop owner taught me a trick for getting stains out of whites, even if they have a pattern. Mix bleach and water (half and half) in a small dish and use a Q-tip to dab the mix on a stained area. When the stain begins to turn purple (bleach does that), rinse it with water in the sink to stop the process. I was able to expand my purchasing to items that had a stain or two, and I came out with GREAT outfits for the babies! Pinterest has lots of tips for treating stains, too.
As a mom of four young children, I was REALLY picky about buying clothes that needed repair. I didn’t have time for that, unless it was a really good piece of clothing that only needed minor repair. Then I would make an exception.
Learning to use a sewing machine to repair rips, patch holes, and hem pants really helps with the clothing budget. When my kids’ jeans got too short, but still fit, I cut them into shorts and hemmed them. They could have up to a whole year of new life after that. I’ve cut dresses apart when the girls got too big for the bodice and made skirts from the bottoms of the dresses. I always save fabric scraps–cut-off legs from blue jeans make GREAT patches for other blue jeans, and you can use fabric scraps for cute craft projects for you and your children! Here’s one of my favorites – OWL CRITTERS. You can use this pattern as an applique or stuff and use as a “critter” to attached to backpacks. Download the pattern and instructions FREE below.