Kids outgrow their clothes and shoes constantly. As a mom of 5 kids, I’m always looking for ways to save money on children’s clothing and shoes to maximize our clothing budget. From 18 years experience, I know my kids always need a bigger size when we do the seasonal clothing switch in the spring and fall. Often, they’ll have a growth spurt halfway through the season sending me back to our clothing storage boxes for more clothes.
Inventory the Clothes and Shoes You Have
Always start with what you have in stock for the current size. I have 5 kids, 4 boys and one girl. We have hand me downs that are over 20 years old. These are name brand clothes in classic styles that have survived 4 active boys.
If you already have a stash of clothes thanks to buying ahead or accepting hand me downs, inventory them, too. This will prevent you from buying multiple pairs of dress shoes when you only need one pair. On the other hand, if your kids beat their sneakers to death and then some, make a note if you need to have 2 pairs of sneakers. I like to keep a beat up pair of sneakers for hikes and muddy days to keep the new pair nice.
Make a list of clothing and shoe needs and keep it in your purse. I used to keep my list in a small notebook in my purse. Now I keep it in a spreadsheet stored in Google Docs which I can access on my iPad mini.
Make a Bare Minimum Wardrobe
Kids need fewer clothes than we think. Unlike adults, kids need to move up a size at least twice a year. If your kids wear a school uniform, they’ll need fewer play clothes during the school year.
Children’s Clothing List
- 6 sets of play clothes (can be more if between seasons)
- 10 pairs of underwear
- 7 pairs of socks
- a small assortment of tights for girls
- 2 warm sweatshirts
- 4-5 pairs of pj’s (I get by with 3-4 pairs)
- 1 pair of church pants (boys) (I use school uniform pants)
- 2 church shirts (boys) (ditto the school uniform shirts)
- 3-5 church dresses (girls) (I use 1 to 2 dresses per season; my daughter doesn’t like to wear dresses.)
- a zip fleece jacket
- a snow coat
- church shoes, sneakers, water shoes (summer), snow boots
I’m adding on:
- a light jacket (sometimes this can do double-duty as a raincoat)
- puddle jumpers (for spring and fall)
- 2 sets of hat and mittens (winter)
- snow pants (winter sledding)
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Make a Plan for Adding to Your Clothing and Shoe Inventory
Make a plan for buying/acquiring new clothes. How long can you wait to buy items? Can you make do until you find what you need at a price you’re willing to pay? Can you borrow items that may be used only once? I borrowed a fancy dress from a friend for my daughter’s Christmas concert instead of spending money on something she would only wear once.
If your goal is to keep your spending low, start with thrift shops and consignment sales in your area. Just Between Friends is a huge consignment sale that happens twice a year. If you consign clothes, you can get in early plus make some income to cover the cost of new clothes. Moms Clubs and churches often host clothing and consignment sales in March and August.
I accept all hand me downs from other families. Boys can be very hard on clothes; I usually need to buy new sweatpants for the next boy. I’ve spent little money on my daughter’s clothes thanks to the generosity of a few neighbors with older girls who pass on clothes. If we can’t use any of the hand me downs from the other families, I pass them along to another family or donate them to Goodwill.
Do you have a group of friends who would be interested in having a clothing/shoe exchange? Getting at least 5 to 6 moms together with kids within 2 years or more of each other should give the group enough clothes and shoes for the exchange. Agree upon guidelines for the exchange before getting together. For example, how will the exchange happen? What’s required to participate? What kind of shape should the clothes and shoes be in?