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Finding Inexpensive Clothing when Buying Second Hand Isn't an Option

Updated on June 9, 2009

I used to have great luck finding all the clothing I needed for my kids at garage sales. If I couldn't find it there I could then find it at consignment stores. Even for my husband and I, I frequently found what we needed second hand. It was perfect. Then we moved and my kids got older. There are not a lot of garage sales here, the consignment stores are way over priced and older kids are just hard on their clothing and can be picky about styles. I began spending a lot of money on clothing and shoes and needed to find a better way.

Serious bargain shopping began in earnest for me about two years ago. Now it is such a habit, that I don't think twice about it. Every time I go into a clothing store I check out the clearance racks. Items on clearance racks are typically either out of season or end of the season things. That's OK, because I shop ahead as much as possible. This allows me to stretch my dollar much farther. Why should I pay $20 for a pair of winter pajamas in October, when I can pay $3 in March? By planning ahead I can outfit all four of my children for less than most people spend on one child.

Another way I save money on clothing is to use my credit card. Yes, I did just say that. After realizing how much we like LL Bean clothing, a few years ago I broke down and signed up for a credit card. I don't use it for everything, but I do for the big expenses and I make sure to pay it off every month. I haven't ever paid a fee or interest on this credit card, but it has certainly benefited me. I earn coupon dollars that I then use to shop the clearance section AND I get free shipping. I just ordered a pair of track pants for my daughter, a shirt for my husband and a shirt for me and I didn't pay a penny for it. Over the course of a year I earn $100 - $200 in coupon dollars and by shopping ahead and buying off the clearance section I am able to get free clothing. Is there a store like that for you? Or can you earn points to redeem for gift cards to local stores? It could be worth looking into.

Outlet malls are becoming more and more prevalent and can offer you great deals. I needed some new shirts recently and headed to the outlet malls instead of the real mall. I got three shirts from Ann Taylor, Bass and Banana Republic for $30 total. Retail, at full price, was over $80. Even if you have to drive a bit farther, it can be worth it for the great prices.

Taking good care of the clothing you have will make it last longer and with children's stuff, it could make the difference in whether you can hand it down or not. Treat stains right away, line dry if possible, mend as needed, hang up or fold neatly, etc and your clothing will last longer. If you have both boys and girls, try to buy generic when you can, especially in pajamas, since typically only the family sees them. A red t-shirt is a red t-shirt and can be worn by anyone.

I have found that at some ages, it doesn't matter how much you spend on pants, they are still going to get a hole in them. Buy the cheap pants and it won't hurt so badly when you have to replace them. Better yet, have you heard of the Sears Kidvantage program? Sign your kids up and buy their clothes there. If they wear them out before they outgrow them, Sears will replace them for free. Now that is a great deal!

It took me awhile to figure this one out, but kids should really have school clothes (nicer stuff) and play clothes. When they want to go play in the woods or the mud, make them wear their grungiest stuff. After a few shirts got ruined immediately by my kids jumping off swings and getting the sleeves caught, I started making them wear those shirts every time we were headed to the park. Now only a few shirts have holes and the rest are still in good shape.

Ask for clothing as gifts. As the kids get older and become more interested in clothing they start to like getting clothes as gifts. Is there something special they really want but is out of your clothing budget? It could make a great gift, either from you or a relative. Or you can get the child a gift card to the store that sells it and they can use it and some of their own money to get the wanted item. For younger kids, anything with their favorite character on it will go over well.

Another way to save money on clothing is to not buy as much. One or two dress outifts, a few play outfits and a handful of nicer "school" outfits will suffice. Buying a few basic pieces that can mix and match will help make a larger wardrobe for less money. A child doesn't need Crocs in every color. Having just a few pairs of shoes is sufficient. In the summer sandal type shoes, dress shoes and tennis shoes are all you need and in the winter, dress shoes, tennis shoes and boots will do just fine. 

That being said, there are some things where buying in large quantities can help you save money in the long run. think about socks for a minute.  If you have one nice pair of brown socks and one gets a hole in it, you have to throw away both socks (or put them in the rag bag).  If you have five pairs of the same type of sock and one gets a hole in it, you can still wear the other sock, because it matches four other pairs.  Rotating it in with the others will make them last longer, saving you money in the long run.

Kids grow fast and can be very hard on their clothing. If you can't find what you need second hand, use some of these tips to make shopping for clothes easier on the pocket book.  If you are looking to buy new clothing for your family, but still want to save money, these tips should really help you.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      From a fellow mom with active, growing kids I appreciate your well written article and good information. The Sears Kidvantage program is great for kids that wear holes in the knees of their pants! I never gave thought to the switching socks out by buying multiples of the same, but that is a nice tip too. Shopping clearance is the way to go for those of us who don't have good second hand sales in our areas. We do have a Kohls in the area and I checked out the one posters link for slickdeals - I think I am going to break down and get a Kohls charge card, like you did for LL Bean! The deal site lists free shipping codes, percent off (must use a charge) and clearance. I don't know if we have a LL Bean close by but I am going to check that out too.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for your informative hub!

      kohlsbargains is a pretty new website and appears to have conducted themselves in a shady manner - in order to get more traffic and advertisors, I imagine. A simple google search will reveal that since they started two months ago, the owners of the site have shilled their site all over the net. Based on Jeanette's comment and her own hub, I believe she may be a shill too (a shill is someone who pretends to be a regular customer when they own/work for the site).

      A few more examples of kohlsbargains tactics to get traffic: (here they promote fraud against Kohl's in order to get traffic to their site)

      Their website has actually been banned from being mentioned at the two popular deal sites, Fatwallet and Slickdeals. I asked mods, just to be sure their name wasn't just blocked due to being a deals website...they replied, assuring me that they were indeed blocked for shilling on their sites.

      The one thing they're right about is that Kohl's has amazing clearance deals, many which are not available on the actual website. If you go to , there's an entire community of folks that spend all day and night hunting for these hidden deals, along with sharing life stories, advice, humor and friendship. A very welcoming group. You can find a huge FAQ and guide on the first page of how the whole process works, so you have the choice of getting in on deals others post, or knowing the best way to search for your own deals. The great thing about this group is they run 24/7, and they've been doing this for well over a year! One thing to note: the newest deals are on the last pages.

    • JeanetteWm profile image


      9 years ago

      I have found that I can get brand new clothes for less than I can get them at garage sales etc. when I go to  After I use the free shipping code and additional discount codes, I often can dress myself completely for under $10.  That includes shoes, undies and complete outfit.  My sister (who is a complete Kohl's fanatic) dresses her children for under $5 a complete outfit.

      Target is also a fantastic place to buy clothes on clearance, though it does not even come close to beating Kohl's.

      One thing: you do have to sign up for a Kohls card to get the free shipping and additional percentage off discounts.  Just pay it off in full each month and you will find you will be the best dressed woman on your block for less than the rest of your friends spent on their lunch.

    • 2patricias profile image


      9 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Good advice! We would add to keep a list in your handbag of items that you will need for the kids over the next 2 seasons - pull it out before you rummage through the sale rail. Also, teaming up with a friend or friends with kids - we passed stuff from family to family.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image


      9 years ago from NW Indiana

      Now this is a hub to study and practice what is learned. You have offered up much info that is a blessing in this time of recession and economic uncertainty.... But on another note, this is something that should very well be practiced all the time. Good job!

    • thelesleyshow profile image


      9 years ago from US

      I still buy second hand clothes and I don't think anyone has ever noticed. My husband knows (and he rolls his eyes) but I refuse to pay designer name prices. Ever since I was little I have worn second hand clothes and after a while you just get a feel for the you have. Great hub. I wish I had thought of it. Thumbs up!

    • Hawkesdream profile image


      9 years ago from Cornwall

      Each of my three boys were brought up wearing second hand clothes. The eldest didn't worry, he would wear anything as long as the colour was right, The youngest destroyed them so fast that he didn't have time to care. The middle one, well, I had to hang outside for the freshair smell , iron, and put in a plastic bag , like new, he never

    • Eaglekiwi profile image


      9 years ago from -Oceania

      Practical and very helpful hub.( great tips in your hub!) I had 5 brothers and was the first girl born ,so for play clothes I had lots of pants or dungarees,lol, I really couldnt have cared less when I was younger what I wore ,since most families were driven by need and not fashion then . Around aged 7 or 8 mum added lace and dyed plain shirts pretty colors or she showed me how to add shells, n shapes to clothes. I love good clean used stores ,and often pick up designer clothes or bags. Amazing what people throw out ,even in these tough times. The stores are still seling, so I guess wasteful people will continue to throw good things away...Our Gain huh.


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