How I Clothe 4 Kids for Under $200 Per Year
Kids are expensive! Everyone who has one knows that the expenses are frequent and consistent. There are ways to reduce those costs, and one of the ways I save the most is on kids clothing.
I tend to plan my kids wardrobes from the start of school through the following summer, as I'm sure most of you do too. The start of school seems the natural time to refresh things, update their sizes, and make sure they're prepared for winter. So, in the last year, I kept track of all my kids clothing expenses (including shoes).
Last year, I spent $199.77 to clothe all 4 kids. Want to know how I did it? Read on!
I've been a bargain shopper for as long as I can remember. Way before having kids, I loved secondhand and yard sale shopping. After having kids (4 so far!), yard sale shopping became more of a necessity as the budget strings pulled a little tighter. However, even if you're not a yard sale fan, there are plenty of ways to save big on all the kids clothing you need for the year.
You can do this without hand-me-downs, too!. Don't get me wrong, hand-me-downs are great, and I willingly take them all. But sometimes, there just aren't any. In fact, this year only 2 of my kids (mostly the baby) benefited significantly from clothes given to us. I purchased about 75% of what was or will be worn this year. So, here are my top 5 sources for clothing the kiddos.
(My full budget breakdown is below. Scroll down if you want to go straight to the numbers).
My Top 5 Sources for Kids Clothes
1. Consignment Sales.
I love local consignment sales! (Update: two years after writing this post, I bought a franchise and now run my own sale in San Antonio.) At the bottom of this post, you'll see that I offset some of the costs of my kids wardrobes by selling at consignment sales. I also buy many things there. Consignment sales are often pretty close to one-stop shopping for us, twice a year. I fill in the gaps using the other methods below, but this is where I score the bulk of my kids wardrobe. I will go on one of 2 days, either presale day (I get a pass as a seller), or on the last day for 50% off, and sometimes both! I am currently working on an entire post about buying and selling at these sales, so I'll add the link here ASAP! (If you’re in the San Antonio area, I invite you to check out my sale at kidscloset.biz/sanantonio!)
2. Yard or Garage Sales.
I mentioned this one above, and it's true that many of the items my kids wear come from yard sales. Some of them have even had store tags still attached! I recently went to a town-wide sale in a neighboring community, where I found several sales selling 4T and 5T boys clothing for .50/each. For $30, I scored most of my toddler's wardrobe, including 7 pairs of shorts, 14 shirts, 2 pairs of PJ's, 6 pairs of pants/jeans, and 2 pairs of shoes.
I average about 20-25 yard sales per year. Most of them I visit in 2-3 days of town-wide or neighborhood sales.
Thereare many Facebook "yard sale" groups in our area, and I have joined them all. Other then the one that is the most local to me, I hide their updates so that my entire feed isn't filled with sale items. But when it's yard sale season or when I need something, I go looking. My favorite find this year is 2 ENORMOUS trash bags (the big black outdoor ones!) filled with clothes in boys sizes 14 and 16 for $40. I met a woman from a nearby town at the grocery store (where I had to go anyway!), and suddenly my 2nd child was supplied for the year, with only shoes and unmentionables needed. Many of the clothes still had tags attached!
4. Thrift Stores.
I like to periodically drop in to my local thrift stores. We have Goodwill, Salvation Army, and a few locally run shops nearby. I always keep a list in my phone of the items I still need for the kids, especially those I am not likely to find at yard sales, and refer to it while I am at those stores. Some thrift stores even have discount days or rewards cards, so be sure to check out what your stores offer. My most recent find was a tankini swim top for my hard-to-fit 12 year old. It was $3.99 but marked 1/2 off. A later visit to Old Navy provided a black swim bottom for $8, making this year's suit a bargain $10.
Yep, you read that right. I do buy some things at regular retail stores. Usually, these items are on a steep clearance, like gym shoes for $2, sandals for $1, etc. Often, they are too big or not the right season when I find them, but I buy them anyway. If they end up not working down the road, I sell them in a consignment sale, usually for a profit. My oldest is 12, and she benefits the most from these retail finds. It's getting harder to find clothing for her at yard sales, and as she grows the clothes become more taste-specific and fit-specific.
(Bonus: My kids receive several outfits per year as gifts, and these outfits are not added into my totals. When they outgrow these outfits, I generally sell them at consignment sales and use the proceeds for clothing in larger sizes).
This is the category I am asked about most frequently, so here are some more details on a few of my finds.
Boots for my daughter: $29.99 @Payless Shoe Source on Black Friday. This is a splurge for me, but she wears them with EVERYTHING, all winter long.
I bought snow boots for my oldest for $19.99 at Menards.
Once I scored an 8-pack of socks for each child on clearance at Wal-Mart for $2.49/each
We hunted down 5 long-sleeved tops on clearance at Old Navy for my oldest -$1.99/each
I found 4 pairs of shoes at our local Once Upon A Child for a total of $11.22 (clearance!)
My biggest tip for getting kids clothing on a budget is to buy what you find, when you find it. Items at yard sales or 75% off in stores won't be there the next time you go. You can always resell items that don't work, or pass them on to someone else.
Here's my budget report for this past year:
Yard Sales: $65.00
Consignment Sales: $178.69
Consigment Sales: $160.59
Yard Sale: $32
(Note: My last 2 yard sales flopped, and so I've switched to 100% consignment selling now. But if yard sales work for you, go for it!)
Income Total: $192.59
** Total Spent: $199.77 (including sales tax) **
Clothing a family on a budget CAN be done! It just takes a little planning, time, and creativity! What are your favorite bargain finds? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!
P.S. I am working on a post about my experience selling at consignment sales, with all my tips and tricks for making the most possible money.
P.S.S. Looking for game night ideas with older kids? Check out our 5 top games for older kids and teens!