Why Pay Alot for Clothes When You Can Pay A Little?
Kids Grow So Fast
When I first became a parent my biggest concern was the cost of feeding, clothing, and caring for my children. I read somewhere that each child costs an average of $1 million over the span of their time in their parents' care. Heck, I'd already shelled out big bucks for my maternity wardrobe because the only alternative I saw was donning my husband's sweats day in & day out. What I didn't consider, for reasons I still can't imagine, was buying second hand maternity clothes. Goodwill has them, heck there's even a local children's clothing thrift chain in town (Once Upon A Child) that has maternity clothes. It just never occurred to me. Perhaps I was light headed from the glow of being pregnant.
But crying over many dollars lost on maternity clothes does me no good here and now. What I need to master is clothing my kids in a budget friendly way. I don't want my kids looking like ragamuffins, as my mother put it...but why can't second hand items be just as nice as store bought? This is a matter I researched as soon as the baby shower clothing gifts were outgrown.
Taking the Time
At first review, it seemed pretty clear that I could leverage local retailers, (like Target and Walmart) clearance specials. It was just a matter of gauging what size my girls would need when the clearance season featured would be needed next. I find if I err on the side of buying bigger, I'm pretty safe...but if you're child is small for his/her age, you'll know to plan accordingly. I even went above & beyond in this research area to join Target's employee team so I could study the clearance trends more closely, keep tabs on any items I really wanted to catch them on mark down and receive a standard employee discount on all my purchases. To me, this was a time investment well worth it.
Behold, the power of thrifting!
But as I get back into my mainstream career field, I find myself needing other options. Well, a good friend of mine opened my eyes to thrifting. Not only are there thrift shops in town dedicated just to kids apparel, but there are locally owned Goodwill type centers that collect donations and resell them to the public. Two of these centers, from my personal experience, are superb for both kids and adult clothing needs, with quality goods and fabulous prices.
I was skeptical at first, because the centers look a tad shady. My recollections of Goodwill items were that the selection was very limited and the quality was below my expectations. But it turns out that many local donations go more to local thrift centers. When I walked in, I was instantly dazzled by the rows and rows and rows of clothes. One center I came to has a sign just inside the door telling you the daily specials (e.g. all orange tag items 50% off today). Here I found more adult clothes than kids, but that was because my work wardrobe needed a severe overhaul. I found name brand items in one section alone...with American Outfitter and Gap and even Anne Taylor items for an average of $7/item. Then the other sections were all marked by clothing type (blouses to the left, skirts toward the rear of the store, etc.).
Saving Doesn't Mean Settling
After overhauling my wardrobe, getting about $500 worth of clothes for around $85, I was able to turn my focus to kids clothes. It's an endeavor that takes time. I averaged 1-3 hours finding my wardrobe items...and the kids items are a similar time investment depending on how organized the racks are. The key is finding the sizes you need, in the season you need, and at the right price for the venue you're in. For example, sure...finding gently used rain boots for your daughter for $10 is good...but if you check there's probably a similar pair on the rack for $3.50...which is way better.
So I keep my eyes peeled. I try to go without the girls so I can focus. AND I constantly remind myself that I don't have to buy anything I don't like. That's key. Thrifting shouldn't feel like settling for less than what I want. It's about finding treasure right under your nose! That way...you get the staples you need (pants, shirts, even shoes) for next to nothing so you can feel fine about splurging on a brand new Easter dress, if that's what you want.
Money in the Bank!
The finds are truly exhilarating! You feel like some sort of super hero. One year I found matching Easter dresses from The Children's Place, one with tags still on, for a total of $20. I'm pretty sure they retailed for about $35 each. It's also great for gift giving. I found adorable kids' aprons and chef hats for $0.20 each, so I bought a bunch and gifted them over the holidays. Just this past week I got an entire wardrobe for a friends new baby boy for about $11. That includes a winter coat, a sun hat, 2 swim trunks, 2 sweaters, 2 sweatshirts, 2 pants, 3 onesies, 1 button down dress shirt, 1 PJ set, 2 overalls, and a sweater vest (all various sizes). Now she can stop worrying about only have girl hand-me-downs from her first child.
Really, why would you pay $15 for a pair of kids jeans when they're being thrifted down the street for $0.69?? At the rate kids grow, why not outsmart the retail system and pay what you want for what you want. What a concept! Heck with the money you save, you can open a college savings account. You're kids won't remember the adorable Carter's suit you bought them for their 5th Christmas, but they'll sure thank you for having pizza money to hand over after you move them into their freshman college dorm. Think it over...what you save today, you can spend tomorrow.
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