Before we start, I just want to remind those of you, who, like me, are prone to overspending . . . before you go shopping, know what you want, what the max price is you are willing to spend, and try very hard not to give in to impulse buying.
I try to give myself an incentive-its usually some form of chocolate. Few things are strong enough to stop me in my path, but chocolate is one of them! Avoid impulse buying. You will kill your budget, and find yourself struggling to find an excuse good enough to justify your purchase to your significant other.
- Buy Thrift
This may seem like a no brainer, but there are actually people out there who turn their noses on thrift stores! One of the biggest complaints I have heard about buying thrift is the “worn, torn, and outdated” argument. My husband threw that at me all the time until I made him a deal. He had taken our then 18 month old son to GAP KIDS for some summer clothes. An hour and $45 later my husband came home with one hat and one outfit from the GAP (shorts and a short sleeved shirt). He had bought sale items only, and felt quite proud of himself on how much money he had “saved.” Naturally, I was appalled.
I told him we could do better. I made a bet that I could find our sons entire summer wardrobe for $50 or less at Goodwill, and that none of his clothes would have obvious wear. $30 later I had 10 shirts, 8 shorts, 5 pajama sets, and 2 books. Nothing was worn, torn, or outdated. I had been there almost 3 hours, but I had saved us money, and returned home with a nice, inexpensive, and complete summer wardrobe.
My husband gave in, and now we rarely buy anything brand new for the kids (with the exception of underwear, socks, and sometimes shoes). On average, I spend less than $100 a year on each child.
2. Buy Ahead
Since I have growing boys, another thing I do is to buy ahead. If I see clothing that is too big for my boys to wear right now, but is selling for a very good price (especially on 50 cent sunday at Red Racks), I will go on ahead and get it for my “futures” bin. I have nearly my sons entire wardrobe for the next 2-3 years because I have kept an eye out for good deals, and slowly purchased one at a time (this includes new underwear, shoes, and socks on clearance).
3. Buy in Bulk
For those items that you that don’t feel comfortable buying from a thrift store (like underwear and socks), try buying in bulk online. I like to shop at JCPenny.com, Kohls.com, and Target.com and look for socks and underwear on clearance. They usually have a promotion that includes free shipping after a specific dollar amount is met, so I buy in bulk the next size up, and the size after that, and so on and so forth until I reach that dollar amount, and then I stop. For some reason, socks are only sold in packs of 6, so I get at least two packs per size. You really can’t have enough socks when your children enjoy being muddy.
The last time I did this was two years ago, buying in bulk, and I won’t need to get underwear for my son for another two years (especially at the rate my son is growing). Socks are harder to gauge-I do need to buy Tiger boy some more socks, but I think I can get my mother in law to do it for me. She feels sorry for us because we are only living on one income, and she has informed us we are headed toward financial disaster
(we aren’t, by the way).
4. Consider Garage Sales
I don’t actually go to as many garage sales as I would like to, mainly because they are a huge potential for impulse buys. When I go shopping, I try to make sure its intentional. You can’t plan for a garage sale. So if you don’t already have a good feel for what you need, you will get sucked in by a “good deal” on something you won’t use.
That said, I was actually able to find the missing pajama top for my sons pajama set last summer. It was 50 cents. Not too shabby!
Overall, though, I would only shop garage sales in areas where you know there is going to be nice clothing-this will be in the “nicer”, “wealthier” counties. I like to garage sale in Johnson county (KS), and in Lee’s summit (MO). Both of these areas are frequented by the supposed 1%, and since they do so enjoy shopping and keeping up with trends, they will be getting rid of quality items before they have any wear on them at all. Suffice it to say, being picky about the location of a garage sale will ensure you purchase quality items. Don’t believe me? If you are in the KC area, ask yourself what a garage sale will look like downtown, and then ask yourself what a garage sale will look like in Leawood. Yup, you got it now!
Just beware of your own weakness if impulse buying is a curse for you. I only go if my husband is present, and I gauge our needs based on what he feels we need. If he feels we don’t need it, we really don’t need it.
5. Beware of Craigslist and Ebay
I say beware because I see both of these very useful tools as potential budget suckers. For example, while both Ebay and Craigslist have sellers offering clothing “lots,” you will have to work a little to determine whether or not they are good buys. First, you have to determine how many of each item you are getting, and if its possible to request less if you don’t need everything in the lot. Next, you need to assess the condition of each item to determine if the advertised price is even reasonable. Assessing the condition virtually, however, is extremely problematic. When you purchase clothing from Ebay, you really have to “trust” that what you see is what you get, and in the reported condition.
With Craigslist, you do have the option to physically inspect items prior to purchase, which makes it more practical. But even then, there are no returns if you find flaws after the fact. At least my local thrift store will allow returns as long as they are within a specific time period-usually a week. You won’t get that with online providers like Craigslist and Ebay. And Craigslist has the added potential for scams and other questionable activity. When I buy from craigslist, I meet the seller in a neutral location on the corner of a busy street in front of a store with a camera. No room for bargaining when it comes to safety. Neutral or nothing.
Finally, beware of what I call “Ebay Gambling:” Clothing lots from Ebay that are priced to buy until the introduction of additional bids pushes the price well beyond your budget. In this case, you need to have a dollar limit set ahead of time, and you need to stop bidding when that amount has been exceeded. Don’t lose sight of your objective in the heat of competition. Its an easy trap to fall into.
6. Accept Free Stuff
Sometimes a family members will offer you their leftovers for free. Tiger boys entire wardrobe for the first year came almost exclusively from one of his cousins. It wasn’t until after the first year that we found ourselves figuring out the expensive world of “now I can wear it, now I can’t.”
Recently someone from our homeschool group put out an ad for her son’s outgrown size 8 clothes. My son wasn’t in need of size 8 (he is in size 6 shirts, and has just moved up to size 5 pants), so I waited about a month before sending her a text, asking if they were still available. She advised me that no one had shown interest, and was more than happy to give them away. It wasn’t an entire wardrobe for size 8, but it was a nice start toward my “futures” bin.
The only problem I have encountered with “free stuff” is that sometimes the giver wants their stuff back, but doesn’t make that request clear at the time of transaction. If I could do it again, I would have asked specifics about items I have received, like “do you want this back, and when do you need it back?” I have since found out that a few items I had assumed were mine were merely loaners, but I had already given them to someone else. Talk about a communication error!
Some people live on what they believe are “obvious assumptions,” but I think, in general, its a mistake to assume that someone will give you back an item you gave away if you didn’t make it clear that item was just a loaner. However, to keep from burning fences with such people, you should probably be proactive. Make sure you are the one who brings up the topic-they will appreciate your foresight and consideration.
7. Create a “clothing co-op”
My best friend and I do this. She had a girl a few months after I had Tiger boy. Then I became pregnant again, and had another boy, reusing my son’s baby clothes for our second child. A year after I had my second child, she also gave birth to a son, so, naturally, I loaned her all the items my second child has outgrown.
Now we are both pregnant for the third time, and found out that we are both having girls. She has already gone through her “baby girl” clothing and given me items she won’t use, which is awesome because, obviously, I had nothing for a girl. I have had to supplement with thrift store buys, and a few other people have loaned me their clothes, but I am very thankful that I haven’t had to buy everything for the first year.
The advantage of a “clothing co-op” is that money doesn’t change hands, no one pays for anything once the first child of each gender has clothing, and you are both mutually benefiting each other. I have created quite a nice collection of boys clothing. Since this little girl will be my last child, my bestie’s son will be the permanent recipient of Dragon boys clothes when they no longer fit him.
So there you have it. From thrift stores to clothing co-ops, clothing your children on one income can be inexpensive and do-able. The only real sacrifice is one of perception-can you sacrifice your brand new name brand items for the sake of your budget? After all, spaghetti stains attack the new as well as the used. I’d rather know I didn’t pay full price.