With four kids in the family, we go through a lot of clothes. Years ago, when we were in college and had a little one, I learned the lesson of shopping ahead to save on clothes, and my husband has seen how it works, so 13 years later we now have a very organized storage system when it comes to clothes and shoes.
To save on clothes by shopping ahead, you need to be organized though, and organization is especially big, since we have very little room for our family of six. Living a frugal lifestyle does not have to mean living without, but it does mean that you need to prioritize what really matters, and this is what we try to teach our kids. While I remember the feeling of not being able to afford the nice brands and nice clothes, I want our kids to know that there is a balance. Our boys are not brand focused (THANK YOU!!), but it might be different with our little girl (I HOPE NOT!), but they still have some very nice clothes in between the basic brands, because some clothing brands just last longer, and with clothes having to go through three boys longevity is key.
Still, how do you keep four kids well dressed on a low budget while keeping the clothing quality high? We have found that shopping clearance with coupons, online consignment and browsing thrift stores has been the best financial and most environmentally friendly way that we could do this. For our boys we do not shop much secondhand clothes, because lets face it boys are rough on clothes, and by the time it goes to our youngest son it is usually just play clothes. A couple of things that we mostly buy secondhand for them are uniform bottoms and jeans, because these tend to last a lot longer, while shirts are a big no go as these fade and look bad fast.
For our little girl we have mostly shopped consignment and secondhand clothes, because our little girl loves dresses and so do I. She basically only wears dresses out of the house, and even at home she has soft cotton dresses that she loves to wear. Most dresses do not get worn more than a few times (except for at our house), and this is really where we’ve hit the jackpot.
We’ve bought some basic pieces such as leggings, bike shorts, socks, underwear and onesies with gift cards won in blog giveaways, but mostly we just shop consignment. Thanks to Frugality Is Free readers, we have not had to spend much out of pocket, because we’ve purchased 90 percent with store credit.
Now to stay organized, we have bins with specific age groups on it, and our boys each have a storage bin where we rotate clothes so they have the right sizes. This way clothes stays nice, and once in a while I’ll find something new on clearance racks so that the boys don’t feel like they only get hand-me-downs. New clothes go in gift piles, and our boys know to expect soft packages among their gifts, because we strongly believe that new things needs to be saved as rewards (for good grades) and gifts.
We also have bins for shoes, this way we can always find what we need. Although our oldest son’s shoes can no longer fit in the bin – he is now up in a size men’s 13!
Now, while the bins by themselves works well for the three boys, the bins are not enough to organize our little girl’s clothes, because I shop ahead more than just a year or two. Thanks to all of the store credit I’ve received due to Frugality Is Free readers shopping at our favorite online consignment stores, I’ve bought ahead for more than just a few years. From experience, I’ve learned that good deals and promotions usually end at some point, and I have the feeling that our clothing budget will be no bigger in years than it was 5 years ago.
For this reason, I have categorized every piece of clothing that we have four our daughter? Why? Because I always have an updated list on my phone and on the computer, so I do not purchase clothes that are too similar. This way I can keep track of what sizes to look for, when I browse the clearance racks, and I can make sure that she has a complete wardrobe, so that I will never have to pay full price for anything.
Yesterday our favorite online consignment store for kids (and women) launched a huge $0.99 sale, and I had the feeling that we might get lucky. I woke up early to start browsing through the clothes, and I quickly realized that this was a chance to buy some beautiful clothing in bigger sizes for our daughter. Unfortunately there was not much clothes for the boys to look at by the time I finished shopping the girls and the women’s categories and did our grocery shopping, and I only found one nice dress shirt for them. Still, I’ve been shopping for them for 13 years, so they are pretty set already.
I decided to go as high up as size 14-16 for our little girl, and while it might be a bit risky, I decided to take the chance and call it an investment. If there’s something she doesn’t like, we can always consign it (probably for more than we paid to begin with). For now our little one is a girly girl, and she is all about the dresses (like her mom), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is an investment that will pay off with a happy tween and teen too.
Now, part of being frugal and part of thinking about the world we live in means being smart and organized about getting rid of the clothes that doesn’t fit. For us this means reselling, reusing, repurposing and donating.
We resell the girls clothes in good condition to the sweetest woman with the biggest heart, who pass it on to a set of triplet girls in her community. The clothes that are not good enough for reselling, we either save for the yard sale bin, we turn it into doll clothes, or we donate it. I would love to be in a position, where we could just donate all the clothes, but as a mom of four on a very tight budget, I have to think about what makes financial sense.
For the boy clothes, it works a little different. The clothes continue moving down until our youngest son outgrows it (and don’t worry he too gets new pieces once in a while through giveaway wins or clearance shopping), then it is either turned into cleaning racks, consigned, put in the yard sale bin, and if it doesn’t sell there we donate it.
Now, yesterday I went ahead and spent $88 dolls on secondhand clothes for our little girl and myself, simply for the fact that the quality of the clothing at ThredUp is higher than at any thrift store around here, and at $0.99 a piece, not even our local thrift stores could compete. I had $35 in ThredUp credits, from Frugality Is Free readers signing up through my referral links and purchasing something for the $10 they get when signing up under us.
The sale went much faster that even I anticipated though, and I am very thankful that I filled up my shopping cart a second time before I went to do our grocery shopping, because by the time I got back after lunch there was barely anything left.
Below is a list of everything we got for $88! We got $6000 worth of clothing for $88, and after credits and free shipping we ended up paying $0.70 a piece. We even got 9 pieces new with tags on them still…
|BCX Girl Special Occasion Dress 16 (NWT with Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Pinky Summer Dress 4T||$0.99|
|Gymboree Summer Dress 5||$0.99|
|Gymboree Summer Dress 5||$0.99|
|Abercrombie Skirt Large kids||$0.99|
|Juicy Couture Dress 12||$0.99|
|Abercrombie Summer Dress X-Large youth (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Epic Threads Summer Dress Medium youth (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Justice Skirt 14||$0.99|
|My Michelle Skirt 14 (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|Gymboree Dress 9 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Baby Gap Dress 2T||$0.99|
|Justice Skort 8||$0.99|
|DKNY Dress 16 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Penelope Mack Dress 6||$0.99|
|Gymboree Skort 9 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Justice Skirt 8 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Sweet Kids U.S.A. Special Occasion Dress X-Large tots||$0.99|
|Ruby Rox Dress 16||$0.99|
|Gymboree Special Occasion Dress 4 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Flowers By Zoe Skirt Medium kids||$0.99|
|Blueberi Boulevard Dress 3T||$0.99|
|Wednesday Top, Long Sleeve Lg (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|Sarah Louise Summer Dress 4||$0.99|
|Gymboree Skirt 4T (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|Zyno Dress 8 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Biscotti Collezioni Dress 3T (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|OshKosh B’gosh Skort 4||$0.99|
|Strasburg Dress 10 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Hazel Blouse, Short Sleeve Lg||$0.99|
|Gymboree Skirt 4||$0.99|
|Gymboree Summer Dress 4||$0.99|
|GB Girls Dress Medium youth||$0.99|
|Talbots Kids Summer Dress 3||$0.99|
|Justice Skort 14||$0.99|
|Baby Gap Skirt 5T (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Sweet Heart Rose Dress 3||$0.99|
|Joseph Blouse, Sleeveless Lg||$0.99|
|Juicy Couture Zip-up Hoodie Lg (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Max Studio Casual Dress Lg (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Anne Klein Sport Cardigan||$0.99|
|Gap Casual Skirt 12 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|J. Crew Factory Store Cardigan Lg (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|American Eagle Outfitters Casual Skirt Lg (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Barneys New York CO-OP Silk Top, Short Sleeve Lg (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Ann Taylor LOFT Top, Long Sleeve Lg||$0.99|
|Gymboree Dress 8 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Justice Dress 10 (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Skirt 8||$0.99|
|Ralph Lauren Dress 4/4T (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Baby Gap Dress 3 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Limited Too Dress 12||$0.99|
|Nautica Romper 4||$0.99|
|DKNY Dress X-Large youth (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|3 Pommes Dress 8||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Skirt 4/5 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Gap Dress X-Large kids||$0.99|
|Blueberi Boulevard Summer Dress 2T||$0.99|
|Rocawear Romper 4T||$0.99|
|Abercrombie Summer Dress Medium kids||$0.99|
|Guess Dress 4||$0.99|
|Limited Too Summer Dress 10 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|KC Parker Skirt 14||$0.99|
|Blush by Us Angels Special Occasion Dress 10||$0.99|
|Pink Ginger Summer Dress 12 (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|Justice Romper 12||$0.99|
|Penelope Mack Summer Dress 10 (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|Ann Taylor LOFT Top, Short Sleeve Lg||$0.99|
|Justice Summer Dress 16||$0.99|
|Limited Too Summer Dress 16||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Dress 4-5||$0.99|
|Naartjie Kids Dress XX-Large kids (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Ralph Lauren Summer Dress X-Large youth||$0.99|
|Old Navy Dress 8 (M)||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Outlet Dress 4-5 (XS) (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|O’Neill Casual Skirt 3||$0.99|
|Raviya Casual Skirt 5||$0.99|
|Hollister Casual Skirt Med||$0.99|
|Billabong Top, Short-sleeve Lg||$0.99|
|American Princess Cardigan 4||$0.99|
|Youngland Cardigan 3 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Poetry Clothing Skirt Medium youth (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Justice Skirt 8||$0.99|
|KC Parker Skirt 10||$0.99|
|Corky’s Kids Summer Dress 3T||$0.99|
|Lands’ End Dress 4||$0.99|
|Justice Skort 7||$0.99|
|Mossimo Supply Co. Dress Medium youth (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Mossimo Supply Co. Summer Dress X-Large youth (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Zoey Girl Dress 12||$0.99|
|Lands’ End Button Down, Short Sleeve 12||$0.99|
|Old Navy Dress 8 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Sarah Louise Dress 4||$0.99|
|Sarah Louise Summer Dress 3||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Skirt 14/16||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Dress 12 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Abercrombie Skirt Medium youth (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Abercrombie Skirt Small youth||$0.99|
|Baby Gap Special Occasion Dress 3 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Roxy Summer Dress 16 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Romper 10||$0.99|
|Justice Dress 10||$0.99|
|Candie’s Girl Dress 14||$0.99|
|Just F.A.B. Girls Skirt 4/5||$0.99|
|Jessica McClintock Special Occasion Dress 16||$0.99|
|Elle Top, Long Sleeve Lg (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Lipstik Girls Dress 12||$0.99|
|Sally Miller Summer Dress 12 (New With Tags)||$0.99|
|Pumpkin Patch Dress 10 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Summer Dress 12||$0.99|
|Ralph Lauren Summer Dress 14 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Gymboree Skirt 4||$0.99|
|Rare Editions Summer Dress 10 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Ralph Lauren Dress 2-2T (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Gymboree Skirt 2T||$0.99|
|Zara Romper 9-10||$0.99|
|Gymboree Dress 3||$0.99|
|Talbots Kids Skirt 3 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Abercrombie Skirt Large kids (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|David Charles Skirt 16 (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|ABS Kids Special Occasion Dress 12||$0.99|
|Abercrombie & Fitch Skirt Medium youth (Tiny Flaw)||$0.99|
|Deux Par Deux Dress 3||$0.99|
|KC Parker Skirt 7||$0.99|
|Gap Kids Skirt 4||$0.99|
|G.H. Bass & Co. Henley, 3/4 Sleeve Lg||$0.99|
Here are a few screen shots of some of the items we bought
Do you shop online consignment? Do you buy ahead to save money on clothes for your kids?
If you have yet to discover ThredUp, you can get $10 to shop for at ThredUp here. Just wait for a great sale or a free shipping offer to use your credit. You can also read about our other favorite online consignment stores Twice and Schoola and see how you can get $10 – $15 to shop for at these stores as well. For all three online consignment stores, I recommend signing up now and then waiting until the right sale or coupon code, because this way you will get emails sent from the stores, when they do have that right promotion for you.