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How to Clothe a Two-Year-Old on a Budget

Updated on March 15, 2013
My daughter at age 15 months wearing a blouse and skirt from H&M, grand total for the outfit $9.00!
My daughter at age 15 months wearing a blouse and skirt from H&M, grand total for the outfit $9.00! | Source

I love nothing more than dressing up my little girl. She is very close to turning two and has quite the personality. She adores nothing more than a tutu and a good hat and I adore nothing more than dressing her to always look her most precious. The problem with this is that unbelievably cute clothes often cost a pretty penny and a lot of money I do not have. So I have done the only thing I could and become a compulsive bargain shopper. These days not much is written down on our household shopping list without an * next to it (a reminder to myself that I have a coupon for that item). I have saved considerably since I began shopping this way but I have also applied this to clothing not just for myself but for my daughter.

Let’s face it, the makers of kids’ clothes know just how to make us moms swoon with their cunning little outfits; but I think the hardest thing to remember when you’re shopping for your child is that eventually that perfect little dress is going to have macaroni & cheese down the front. My husband and I were so sure that we would not be ‘those’ parents who let their kids make little messes of themselves and that our daughter would always be immaculate…yeah…it just does not happen that way. Kids are messy and there is no getting around it. Now, does that mean you should not buy them the most precious clothes ever? Of course not…you just should never pay full price for them.

During a recent trip to Gymboree I discovered another great way of saving money. While scoring a great deal on a summer dress for my little darling ($11 compared to an original price of $35) I wandered over to the clearance rack. As I sorted through her size I basically just saw Christmas/winter-themed clothing marked way down to $4.99 with an additional $25 off all clearance. Clearly I was not going to buy her shirts with snowmen and gingerbread men in the midst of February, but I thought what if I bought it for next year? The wonderful thing about children around two years old their growth begins to moderate and they do not go through sizes as quickly as when they were infants. I took a look at the 3t shirts and knew that in another 9 months they would still be plenty roomy for my dumpling. So after hitting a sale on the dress (only $20 for all baby dresses) an in-store promotion of 25% off of all clearance items, a 20% off your entire purchase coupon and a $5.00 rewards certificate I bought a dress and three adorable winter themed long-sleeved shirts for $19 and some change. That was a receipt I proudly showed my husband, those shirts had retailed and $21.95 and by the end I got them each for $2.39. Even the salesman was happy for me!

I have written about Carter’s before when my daughter was younger and I still continue to do pretty well by them. Carter’s continues to have quality, durable and sweet clothes for little girls. All of their retail stores are outlets and there is always some sort of sale going on. Coupons are always available online for at least 15% off your entire purchase or 20% off your purchase of $40 or more. If you’re vigilant then you may find a coupon as high as 25% off your purchase of $40 or more ($40 is not a difficult amount to reach in Carter’s). Is there a down side to these coupons? Yes, they are not applicable to ‘door-busters’ (items marked down to truly great prices) or to clearance items which throws a little monkey wrench in any bargain shopper’s plans.

Carter’s has also revised their rewards program. Gone are the days that you had to have your card stamped for every $20 you spent (until you reached $100) in order to achieve a $10 rewards certificate (the card had to be fully stamped and used before a specified date). The new program awards the consumer with a $10 rewards certificate for every $50 spent. The certificate has to remain attached to the original receipt to be valid and does have an expiration date. The problem is that unlike other store that allow you to combine coupons and rewards certificates, Carter’s does not. So what is the answer? Shop in a pair, when I have a dilemma such as this I bring my husband with me to split up the transaction. Stores do things like this strictly to make you have to choose between your rewards certificate and the coupon, when all you need to do is shop in a team to take full advantage of both.

I will say that I do not buy as much of my daughter’s clothing here as I used to. The selection that they have for babies NB-24 months is precious, but as the age increases the options seemed to dwindle a bit. For that reason I have had to start to broaden my scope when it comes to children’s clothing. However I did recently buy three fleece sleepers for only $3.99 each off of the clearance rack for my daughter for next fall/winter, this is 50% off what I typically consider to be a good price for fleece sleepers.

If you want to shop somewhere that does not skimp on coupons and promotions you definitely want to try Kohl’s. Overall the prices at Kohl’s are gouged to the max but they are always having some sort of 50% off sale which brings prices down to where they should be. The children’s department in particular always goes on sale and you should never even think up shopping there unless the clothes are marked down 50%. In addition the sale Kohl’s almost always has coupons in the Sunday circular or available for printing online that you can combine with sale items. Kohl’s also offers what they call ‘Kohl’s cash’ which is a $10 certificate given for every $50 you spend that you can redeem between certain dates and this can be combined with all promotions. My husband also receives a birthday gift from Kohl’s in the form of a $10 certificate that can also be combined with all other promotions. This past fall we took my daughter shopping for some warmer clothes at Kohl’s and after using a $50 gift certificate she received for her birthday the previous spring , a coupon, $30 in Kohl’s cash, and two $10 rewards certificates we took home a bag stuffed with over $100 in merchandise for only $3.00 out of pocket. We are very lucky that my husband’s company gives him a clothing stipend for suits and dress shirts, so whenever he stocks up on new dress shirts at Kohl’s we reap the benefits of the Kohl’s cash!

When it comes to the proper growth and support of children’s feet I do not think cheap is the way to go which is why I shop at Stride Rite. They have shoes for all stages of childhood that properly support children especially during that important time when they’re taking their first steps. This past summer on a trip to the outlets in New Hampshire we came across a Stride Rite outlet where they were having a BOGO ½ off promotion. The salesman was very helpful and knowledgeable and made a fantastic suggestion. He told us that some people buy a pair that fits their child now, and buy a second pair the next size up for the discounted price. That day we walked out of Stride Rite paying the same amount for two pairs of shoes that we would have paid for one pair full-price at home. Stride Rite also has a rewards card membership for rewards after every $75 you spend.

Old Navy & GAP are also great places to find clothes for the kids, for more tips on these stores please see my previous article Shopping for Your Kids without Going Broke

I mentioned earlier a gift certificate I saved for months until we needed to buy new seasonal clothes, this is a key element to how I shop for my daughter. When people ask what they should give as a gift do not be afraid to ask for a gift card! Gift cards can be tucked away for when big sales come up or when money is tight. I rely on my mom to always give a $50 Stride Rite gift card to my daughter so I always have a nice chunk off the price of her shoes. My sister, brother, and I currently have a great system going for birthdays and Christmas. We give each other’s children one toy and one gift card; this way the children are happy with their toys and the parents can choose whatever clothes they like and no one has to haggle with any returns! Children can have enough toys they are always going to need more clothes.


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