A few days ago I posted a picture of our daughter's closet on Instagram and mentioned I have a system for purchasing our kids' wardrobes to keep them curated and budget-friendly. I asked if anyone would be interested in hearing more about this and the response was overwhelming! So here we go...
1. Shop Once A Season
I try to only shop twice a year for kids clothes. My shopping pretty much coincides with the local consignment sales (more on that below) which are held around February and August each year. So in February - March-ish I buy everything for the spring/summer months. Where we live we usually don't start wearing this clothing until April or May, but I buy it all before that so it's ready to roll when warm weather hits. Then I buy everything for fall/winter at the August back to school sales. Since I'm sort of in a buying mode at that point I also buy from regular stores at the same time to fill in whatever items I could not get at the sales. This keeps me from buying willy nilly throughout the year which can add up fast. It's not that I never buy outside these time frames, I just try to control myself as much as possible. Plus if I've stocked up adequately I know they don't need anything and that it won't really get used, so when I'm tempted I remind myself it's just excess.
Also I do not buy ahead. I know some people really like to purchase things a few seasons or sizes ahead of time but generally I do not. It's just too much to manage/keep track of for me, so I only buy the size they will be in during the season I'm shopping for.
2. Shop Consignment Sales
Shopping consignment sales is the number one way I save money on my kids' clothes. Here we have Rhea Lana and Kids Closet Connection, as well as a few others (but those are my two favorite). I NEVER miss them and make sure to get into them as early as possible. If you're not familiar with consignment sales, they are held over several days at a large venue and are like a giant (nice) garage sale. Most major areas have them so if you've never been be sure to check them out! They have staggered entry times, with those volunteering at the sales getting in to shop first, followed by those who have consigned and then other special groups like moms-to-be etc. Every sale is just a little different, so check out how each one works and if you can get in early. Consigning can be a lot of work but often I'll do a few things just to get in to shop early. I've found on average I spent $80-90 per sale when we just had Lexie. Since I was buying for two children at the last one I did spend more.
When shopping for used clothing I am very picky and try to look for as many nice brands as possible (it's probably a little silly how excited I get when I find a baby Gap item haha). The sales are supposed to have rules against stains, holes, etc., but I do still try to check everything carefully to make sure it's still in very good condition. I pass on anything with pilling, stains, rips, or that's looking tired.
3. Get a Gap Credit Card to Shop Gap, Old Navy and Gap Factory
I am NOT a big proponent of credit cards and we do not use them frequently. But if you can have self-control and pay your balance each month then I think a Gap card is worth it for buying kids clothes. Gap is by far my favorite place to purchase children's clothing, followed by Old Navy, and the card perks are really nice. I buy a lot of our staple pieces at Old Navy and make sure to wait for one of their kids and baby sales (which thankfully often coincide with my "shopping seasons" in February/August). Often you can get leggings for $2, dresses and shirts for $4-6, etc. And I'll save up the reward points from my Gap card until I make a big seasonal purchase and it usually brings the cost way down. I love seeing the receipt and what I actually paid per item after all the discounts and reward points were applied - often only a few dollars per item and rivaling consignment prices. Gap is definitely pricier than Old Navy so I don't shop there quite as much, but I think they have cuter pieces, especially for special things like nice dresses. I do wait for their sales also, but am choosey with what I purchase there since I know I'll spend a bit more. A nice compromise I've found is Gap Factory, which has many of the same or similar items as Gap but closer to Old Navy prices when there are sales/discount codes available. I've started shopping there more and more over the last few months. Also, I do almost all of this shopping online and don't go in the stores very often. But it is easy to return things since we do have an Old Navy and Gap locally.
My other go-to store for kids clothes is TJ Maxx (or Marshalls but we don't have one nearby). If I do buy clothes there I put it on the Gap card so I can track how much I'm spending on clothes and get the points. Occasionally I'll buy from places like Target and Carter's but it's pretty rare. I find I just don't care for the look of their clothes quite as much.
4. Buy in a Curated Palette
Another way I keep my kids' closets curated and cute as well as under control is to shop in a color palette. This sort of evolved naturally based on what I was drawn to (I have pretty specific taste, obviously) but now I've found it's just easier to dress in a palette. So my daughter wears mostly pink/blush, white and light blue/chambray. This makes getting her dressed super easy, and if either she or my husband picks something out it usually works since everything mostly goes together. I'll probably have to learn what I like best on our son, but so far I definitely lean toward light blue, navy, white and gray, as well as classic patterns like stripes and gingham.
5. Know What You'll Use
Another way to keep costs down and the kids clothes piles under control is to be realistic about how much you actually need and what you'll actually put them in. I've learned we mostly put our daughter in dresses. In the summer months they are the easiest and coolest (and cutest!). In fact I feel like I overbought this summer on shirts and shorts because we just don't reach for them as often. We need a few, but I've learned it's primarily dresses. The same goes for the winter as we generally have her wear a comfy dress with leggings underneath. I will buy a few tops also, but mostly stick to dresses.
When she was a baby (and I'm planning this for our son too) I found it was easiest to put her in one-piece outfits, so I invested in what I would call daytime sleepers. The same thing as footie pajamas but that were more for daytime use/prettier (a lot of ours were velour or terrycloth with sweet details like lace and ruffles). In the warmer months, it was dresses again.
As far as her shoes go I tend to buy a few pairs she can wear with nearly everything. In the summer it is these jellies from Old Navy and she wears them constantly. They are plastic so easy to clean and so cheap that if they get too dirty I can always just get another pair. In the winter she tends to wear gold ballet flats or gold ankle boots the most.
For pajamas I've found we need about 6-7 pairs of them at the toddler stage, and 10-12 for a baby. This probably does depend how long your child wears each pair and how often you want to do laundry. Pajamas are so cute it's easy to over-buy, so I try to stick to know what we'll actually use.
6. Stick to Item Price Limits
It is really helpful to have price limits for categories of items. For example I rarely pay over $10 for anything unless it's a very special piece (like an Easter or Christmas dress), but often I try to stay much lower than that. Here are my general rules of thumb:
$1 or less for used onesies, $2 or less for new (TJ Maxx is my favorite place to buy onesies in sets so that the price per piece is the lowest)
$6-8 new, $4 or less used
$5 or less new, $3 or less used
$10 or under new, $6 or under used
$8 or under new (I rarely buy them used as I've found they're often not in good shape)
$8 or under (I mostly buy new, and the ones I've bought at sales have been in like-new condition. Some of my favorite scores were a pair of white Native shoes for $7 and a pair of Mini Melissas for $8!) I will probably pay more for sturdy everyday boots like her ankle boots she wears all winter.
I hope you guys found this helpful! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments or on Instagram and I'll do my best to answer! And if you have any awesome kids clothes tips I'd love to hear them!
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