March 12, 2015

an ode to hand-me-downs and buying used...

One part of motherhood I feel pretty passionate about is finding ways to dress my daughter (soon to be daughters!) both adorably and affordably. There are times I come across a website that features toddler clothing and I can't help but wonder who could rationalize spending $60 on a trench coat for a two year old. Granted, there are many (many) people in this world who have more disposable income, so if you have the extra money to splurge here and there, then by all means do so! (I shall live vicariously through you. Be sure to snag some of the outrageously adorable baby leggings from Etsy.) But overall, I think there are many (many) more of us who—out of necessity or preference—have to be a bit more intentional with how we spend our money every day. I've never seen the point of dressing a child exclusively in clothes that are expensive, will be outgrown in a matter of seasons, and will soon show signs of contact with dirt/grass/grape juice/markers/a rogue tube of pink lipgloss/etc.

In the same way that I'm kind of a stickler when it comes to shopping the sale racks and accepting all the hand-me-downs I can possibly add to my own wardrobe, I've always been the same with my daughter. I was thinking about it the other day, as I was going through the many bins of clothes I (thankfully!) saved for the next little one. I realized that if I were to guess, I'd say that in Eisley's first 3 1/2 years of life, at least 75% of what she has worn consists of hand-me-downs and consignment/thrift store finds. The other portion would be clothing received as gifts, or clothes I've purchased on clearance (or at least on sale).

This isn't meant as a humble-brag or anything like that—I mostly just want others to be aware of the huge benefits of finding a go-to children's consignment store, or perhaps not being shy to let a close friend or relative know that you'd be more than happy to use any clothes their child has recently outgrown, that they don't plan on keeping themselves.

Here are a few specific ways we have saved money on clothes:

Being a middle child (and having a sister only 18 months older) meant that receiving hand-me-downs was never a weird, annoying thing. I was actually thrilled to get to wear anything my older sister outgrew or no longer wanted. Although Eisley doesn't have an older sibling, she does have a cousin who is almost exactly one year older than she is, which means we are always being offered a new rotation of clothes that her cousin no longer fits into. These items are so appreciated, and I love how excited Eisley gets over knowing she is wearing some PJs or a dress that used to be Lilly's. And I must say, those of you with a toddler or preschooler know just how quickly clothes can get stained (or generally thrashed) at these ages and stages, so knowing you didn't just spend $30+ on a pair of jeans helps you just relax and roll with the punches a bit more.

Aside from the hand-me-downs we receive from Eisley's cousin, I received bags and bags of adorable, usable, gently-worn newborn and baby clothing from generous coworkers and seasoned-mama friends when I was pregnant. Many of the items I received held up so well that I still have three full bins of baby/toddler girl clothes ready to be worn by our next daughter! She will be wearing many hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs, but I tell you this: you would never know.

Consignment/Thrift Stores
Although I can't say I've purchased much from the more common thrift stores (the pickings tend to be a bit slim at our local Goodwill or other large stores of that kind), I have found a local children's store that specializes in gently-worn clothes, toys and baby items (strollers, wraps, cribs, etc.) that are all in great condition and are almost always name brand. I'm definitely not a gotta-have-the-right-brand person, but there is obviously a difference between the quality of something made by Circo and Gap Kids. Because I am always hoping to pair great price with lasting quality, shopping at consignment stores has always been a win-win. (I may also get this passion from my mom, who frequented these sorts of stores when my sisters and I were growing up!)

To give you an idea of how much you can save once you become familiar with your own local shops, the photo at the top of this post features clothes I recently purchased at my favorite consignment shop. Every item is name brand (Gap Kids, Gymboree, etc.) and I paid only $13 after tax for everything. As with many stores of this kind, they will have an annual or biannual 50% off sale, which is how I was able to get these like-new, name brand items at such a huge discount. But even if I hadn't taken advantage of the awesome sale, it still would have come to less than $30!

This same shop also has a $1.99 rack of "play clothes" in toddler and preschooler sizes that I have made many purchases from. They offer items there that they don't want to sell full price, based on extra wear or a slight flaw or small stain. But I've found many items offered there that are also brand name and in gorgeous condition. Often times, I can't even find a flaw!

Aside from the obvious money-saving benefits, it feels good to support a local business in this way. It's rather nice when my money is helping to benefit a small business that I know and love. Once you find one you love, you should also be sure to ask the owners about any upcoming sales, or how you can sell them your own gently-used clothing and other items for cash or store credit. Definitely worth a try!

Buying One-Year-Ahead
When I do purchase clothing new, I almost always buy one size ahead, so I can add to our selection of clothing for either the next season or the next year. (For example, I will only buy items that are 4T are larger at this point, so I know Eisley will grow into them.) I tend to either wait until I find a great deal on a Target, Kohls or Old Navy clearance rack, but the best deals I've found have been through end-of-season sales online. (I also love when I can find an online sale and receive cash back by using Ebates!) I follow Money Saving Mom and love that she always mentions when larger brands are featuring can't-miss sales on their websites. For instance, last year I saw a post on her blog that mentioned Children's Place was offering 50% off everything on their site (even clearance items!) and I believe there was also a coupon code for free shipping. I was able to purchase 3 pairs of shorts, a pair of jeans, and a bathing suit—all for only $28. I don't always buy new, but when I come across deals like that I definitely can't resist! And I can't tell you how nice it is to know that you always have clothing options ready to be worn once your child has gone up a size (or the season has changed).

Overall, I'm pretty darn proud when I look back at how much we've been able to save on clothing over the past few years. Knowing just how expensive regularly-priced clothes and accessories have become—even at stores like Old Navy and Target!—I am glad to know that more of our money is going toward things that matter much more in the long run.

And it also means that at some point before July, I can splurge on a few pairs of outrageously adorable baby leggings from Etsy without feeling too guilty. (I call that a win!)

Affiliate link included in this post; view my disclosure policy here.

1 comment :

  1. Oh man, I have barely spent ANY money on clothes for either kids. I am NOT shy about asking for hand-me-downs, both from family and friends, and I definitely let people know if I need clothing gifts for Christmas or birthdays. We have clothes stocked for both kids for the next couple years right now! The only downside is that sometimes I get some stuff that I'm really not a fan of (fashion-wise). If it's something I really hate I'll box it up and send it along, but usually Meredith likes it and I just go with it.


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