Clothing the entire family can be an expensive task. Babies grow out of their clothing in a matter of months, and crawling can tear holes in pants. Toddlers love messy play and their outfits can end up stained and well worn quickly. Then school children require expensive uniforms, sports equipment, as well as casual clothes. Once your child is a teenager, then they want the latest fashions and designer wear, all at a cost.
So how can we try save money on children’s clothing, whilst still providing our children with the outfits they need and want?
Here are my top 21 tips on how to save money buying kids wear. You can adapt the same tips for girls and boys clothes, for buying clothing for yourself. If you have any further suggestions and top tips to add to my list, please feel free to comment below.
Buying children’s clothes
1. Organise your child’s closet
If a clothes cupboard is not organised, it’s amazing how many items go unseen and unworn. Kids will also tend to take the first item off the top of the shelf, and end up wearing the same outfit over again. Clothes at the bottom of the pile, or stuffed at the back, tend to be forgotten.
After sorting the cupboard you can better see what kid’s clothes you have that actually fit and what items you need to buy. Pull out all the clothes out of the closet, and sort them into piles. Store, donate or sell clothes that they have outgrown. Purchase kids hangers and hang jackets, shirts, dresses and gowns. Depending on space and personal preference, separate into summer and winter items, by colour, size and type of item.
Learn from my mistakes. I have a clear zipped bag which I store clothing that’s too big for the kids as yet. These are clothes that I have been given, bought on sales, or are hand me downs. Remember to check these clothes every season, to see if they fit and are ready to be worn. Many times, I have had items which have been forgotten and my child has grown out of them before they have had a chance to be worn.
2. Make a shopping list
Now that you know what you need, write it down on a shopping list. Try not deviate from the items on your list. Share it with granny or aunty if she also likes to buy clothing for the kids.
3. Stick to a budget
Beware buying on credit. It may seem a saving in the short-term, but it can be tempting to spend beyond your budget and you pay more with interest over time. Only spend what you can afford.
Decide on a budget for each member of the family. This budget can be monthly or quarterly/seasonally. Factor in peak spending times such as a new school year, change of season and holidays. If you over spend your budget, then you will need to limit your spend another month or on other luxury items.
Try involving your older children in budgeting their clothing spend and help them learn to appreciate the value of money. Let them earn their pocket/clothing money by doing chores around the house or by achieving good school grades. You may find that are less interested in purchasing those designer shoes or jeans if they have to spend their own money.
4. Shop sales
Shop the sales in-store or online for bargains. Be careful though, as it can be tempting to buy items that are not on your shopping list. Clothing items may be cheaper in the sale, but if it goes unworn, then it’s just a waste of money.
So how do you shop the sales and still save money? Start by finding out when the sales begin by signing up to store newsletters, follow their social media pages and register for text notifications. Then create a wish list of items before you shop the sales.
This wish list must follow the helpful tips I share in this post and all be clothing you would normally buy, whether or not they were on sale. If shopping in-store, browse the clothing before the sale begins and make a note of all the clothing you like. Try clothing on if you can or ask your child to pick out their favourites. This way you avoid the long fitting room queues on sale day and are first at the tills.
If buying online, create a customer profile and make a wish list of items which can be saved. Then when the sale starts, you already have your wish list ready and can be first to snap up the bargains. Don’t be tempted to purchase items off the wish list.
Many sale items are out of season, and are winter items when you are going into summer, and vice versa. Buy sizes and styles that are going to fit the next year, when the clothing items are back in season.
5. Quality before designer
Don’t be lured by designer labels alone. Designer doesn’t always mean quality and comfort. You may like your baby in a designer babygrow, but if it’s not comfortable, there is no way they will want to wear it. Then it just becomes a waste of money.
Quality items may come with a bigger price-tag, but will last much longer than their cheaper counterparts. Children are hard on clothes, and those cheap pants may tear at the knee within a week. Cheap clothes don’t wash or wear as well, and can cost you more money to replace.
Some clothes are designed to withstand the active and messy play of kids. Invest in items which are longer lasting, and are easy to clean. Parental Instinct sells a stain resistant range of clothing which will stay looking new for longer.
6. Ignore sizes
Clothes sizes can differ between stores and where it has been made in the world. Some clothing ranges can be smaller or larger in fit, and sizes should be used as an approximate and not the rule.
When shopping in store, I usually ask the salesperson about the fit of the clothes and also judge by eye if they look the right size for my child. If shopping online, find the sizing chart and take your child’s measurements.
Even if the size on the label may be too big or small, still ask your child to try it on. My daughter was given larger sizes which I thought she wouldn’t be able to wear for years, but actually fitted perfectly.
7. Stick to the basics
Purchase clothing that won’t go out of style and that can be handed down over the years. Stick to plain T-shirts, pants, dresses and jackets. Use accessories to brighten up outfits and provide new looks on a budget. Plain clothing items can also be re-dyed cost effectively, to give new life to worn and faded items.
8. Hunt the factory shops
One of my most popular blog posts is on my favourite factory shops in Cape Town. I have found many great quality bargains from locally designed clothing brands, and do recommend you visit my list. To really find the best bargains, you have to follow a few tips.
Visit factory stores regularly, as new stock comes in all the time, often without the store manager knowing beforehand. Know your sizes, and stick to a shopping list. I found that certain children’s sizes are more popular than others, and choice is therefore limited. Sizes 6-12 months and 2-3 years seem to be most popular and I usually find better details in the larger clothing sizes.
Sign up to SMS notifications, the store’s newsletter and follow on social media to be notified of upcoming sales at various factory shops. Keedo factory shops are especially good at letting you know of new arrivals, special prices and sales.
9. Return if unwanted
Let me set the scene. You are in the store with your kids, it may only be 5 minutes into shopping, and you already want to go home. The kids are pulling clothes off the rack, begging you for it because it would be ‘perfect mommy – I promise!’
You relent and buy it because you either like it or you are just happy that your child has found something they would agree to wear. Once you get home though, the clothes are the wrong size, the kids changed their minds or they are not as nice as they looked in shop.
Take clothes back to the store for a credit if they are the wrong size, the quality is poor, or you changed your mind. Don’t waste money on clothing that will not be worn or are just not right. You do have a right to return items provided they are unworn, you have the receipt or if there is a defect.
10. Buy gender neutral
With a boy and girl, I look for gender neutral basics which both my kids can use. Of course my daughter has her pretty dresses, and my son is monster truck T-shirts too. However, when it comes to tracksuits, plain T-shirts, jackets and boots, I stick to designs and colours that they both will want to wear.
This tip will save you money on those more expensive items which are hardwearing or not often worn but still needed. Rain jackets, gum boots, hats and scarves are all winter items which can be gender neutral, fit both sexes and still look good.
11. Size up
Do you remember shopping with your mother and she would buy clothing in larger sizes so you had room to grow? I used to get annoyed with this, and refused to roll up my sleeves/hems when the arms or legs were too long. Looking back, it did make sense to buy clothes in larger sizes as often we would outgrow them before we had our wear from them.
I’m not saying you should buy sizes that are too big where your child looks like a clown ready to juggle their toys, but rather to allow some room to grow. This will save you money on more costly items, and those they would not wear often enough to justify buying it in a smaller size. Such as your child’s school blazer and uniform, rain jackets, formal dresses etc.
I have to add that this rule to size up, excludes shoes which are worn daily, for sport and for school. Correctly fitted shoes are important for the proper growth and development of the feet. This will avoid many health issues down the line which will not only benefit your child, it will avoid costly medical expenses.
12. Limit cute clothing
If you are looking to keep a minimal wardrobe, then it’s best to avoid buying cute items. These are the tops with the cute fluffy kitty cat with the bright pink paws. Or the track suit pants with the pretend animal tail sewn to the bottom.
These items are easily recognisable, and people will notice your child wearing it, every week. It’s much harder to mix and match items, or accessorise them, for multiple outfit looks.
These designs also tend to be printed onto fabric, which doesn’t wear as well and can begin to look faded or damaged quicker. Cute items tend to be age and gender specific, and your child may not want to wear it as they get older.
13. Rent or borrow special outfits
Have a special occasion to attend and don’t want to spend a fortune on a dress your child will only wear once? Maybe your child is a flower girl, page boy, or a guest at a wedding or special family occasion. Then rent or borrow that special dress/suit, provided you know it won’t get too dirty or damaged.
14. Clothes as gifts
Save money by buying clothes as part of birthday, celebrations and Christmas gifts. Choose clothing that you know your child will love, and include accessories or fun items like sunglasses and hats. Wrap them up in a bow with a handwritten note telling them it is a special outfit for your special princess, prince, sports star or superhero.
My go to gift that I buy for birthday parties is sleepwear or clothing for the birthday boy or girl. Children are usually in need of new clothes as they grow up each year, more so than a new toy. It’s a practical gift, as long as you choose the correct size and leave the label on, in case they need to replace the item.
I would not recommend telling people what gift they have to buy for your child, but if they ask, say that you would prefer clothes. Let family and friends know what items your child needs/likes and the appropriate size.
Caring for children’s clothes
15. Check tags for care instructions
This is a lesson I have learnt buying clothes for myself, but it also applies for children’s clothes. Always check the clothing label for the care instructions. Save money and avoid dry clean only items, which will cost you a fortune to be cleaned by professionals.
16. Take care of your clothes
Extend the life of your clothes by taking care to wash according to the care instructions. Wash at the recommended temperatures and by fabric type. Separate hand wash only items, and sort by colour.
Modern washing machines offer various wash, rinse and spin cycles based on fabric and size of load. Check out my buying guide to washing machines on what to look for when purchasing your appliance.
Hang clothing on correctly fitting hangers and never stretch necks when placing on the hanger. Clean cupboards regularly to avoid moisture and mould.
Fish moths can eat through and damage clothing, so use moth balls or bags of cloves to rid them from closets. Special dresses and occasional outfits can be stored in suit bags, to protect them from dust and pests.
17. Repair or repurpose clothes
If you don’t have a sewing kit, I would recommend popping into your local sewing store to get one. Most retailers also have the basic sewing items you need to make minor repairs to clothing.
Save money by replacing lost buttons, close up small holes or let down a hem on a skirt. Extend the duration of wear of clothes by repairing items yourself, or taking them to a seamstress.
Before throwing out clothes, why not repurpose them into other items. A dress can become a top, cut off the feet of babygrows to become a playsuit, old jeans can be sewn into a bag. Search Pinterest for ideas and inspiration, and how you can save money by repurposing clothes.
18. Bling it
Save money by buying a plain T-shirt and embellishing it yourself. Replace plain buttons with funky designs from the sewing store, or sew a ribbon edging. Get creative by taking basic, cheaper items and giving them a personal touch. Make embellishments interchangeable, so you can have one top but three looks.
Gently used children’s clothes
19. Shop charity or thrift stores
Not all charity shops have the same quality or selection of donated clothing. Search your local charity shops to find which ones, and in which areas, receive the best stock of children’s clothes.
Visit the stores regularly, as the best bargains are usually snapped up quickly. Make friends with the store volunteers and provide them with your contact details so they can let you know when new stock arrives.
20. Organise a clothing swap
Get together with friends and family and have a clothing swap. Ask people with children around the same ages, to sort and wash their unworn clothing which they would like to swap.
Arrange a play date, and the moms can swap, buy and sell clothes. I would suggest having a set price for categories of items, eg: R10 for T-shirts, R20 for pants and dresses, and R30 for jackets.
What’s nice about swapping with people you know is that you generally have similar taste in clothing and it’s a safe and friendly environment. You can also swap school clothes, sports equipment and toys.
21. Sell gently used clothes
Make money from your gently used second hand clothes by selling on Gumtree, community forums or on consignment. If clothing is just sitting in your cupboard, sell it to pay for new clothing for your child.
Sort, wash and fold clothing which is still in good condition. Choose whether you want to sell directly via second hand sites, or via consignment with a third party. There are pros and cons to both options.
Selling items on second hand sites directly to customers can earn you more money than via a third party, but does involve more effort and risk. If you choose this option, boost your earnings by taking good photos of the clothing and adding a detailed description. Lay clothing out flat on a plain background near a window or a shaded area outside, which provides good natural lighting. Use the best camera you have available, though most smart phones take decent quality photographs. If you don’t want customers coming to your home, arrange to meet them at a public area like your local petrol station or library.
There are a number of in-store and online consignment shops in South Africa. If you are based in Cape Town, 2nd Take (insert link) buys and sells quality and designer children’s, women’s and men’s wear. Online consignment stores specialising in children’s clothes include Once More and Petit Fox. There is minimal risk to selling via consignment, however sales are not guaranteed and expect to wait a few week before receiving payment.
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How do you save money on clothes? Please let me know in the comments below.