One of the things that makes people nervous about having a large family is the cost. There are a lot of ways to cut costs if having a larger family is something that is important to you. One of the biggest ways we cut costs while clothing 5 kids is shopping pre-loved clothing. We also love hand me downs! I know that there are some people who are not okay with used clothing but when you are on a budget it is a great way to save money. These tips also all work for families with only one or two kids!
There are some other perks of shopping pre-loved clothing. Pre-Loved clothing is already pre-shrunk. What you see is what you get. Same with fading, you typically don’t need to worry about infecting a whole load of laundry with bring pink dye (or red or blue) with pre-loved clothing.
I shop for 95% of the kids clothes at either our local Once Upon a Child or a large consignment sale. I’m sure I could shop other thrift stores as well and maybe get some other deals. However, that would take more time than I have. I prefer one stop shopping whenever possible because my time is also valuable.
We do buy socks, underwear and other undergarments new. I try to shop clearance and snatch things up when we don’t quite need it yet so we don’t have to pay full price. Especially for socks and underwear! Target typically has those on clearance for good prices if you watch their clearance racks.
There are so many ways to save money on kids clothes. A good majority of these tips also work when shopping at consignment stores such as Once Upon a Child. My local OUaC has some great clearance sales where their clearance clothes drop to 90% off. I pre-buy a TON when that happens. However, today I want to share my tips for consignment shopping specifically.
1. Find a good Consignment Sale or Children’s Consignment Store.
My favorite way to stock up on seasonal items is to hit up a big seasonal consignment sale bi-annually. Most areas have some type of sale of this nature. Our neighboring city has 2 different big ones. However, the quality is definitely different between the two. One has MORE stuff but the quality is horrible. There is no “quality control.” The other sale has slightly less stuff. However, the items are better quality and more focused on what they sale. It also lasts a week and they restock daily.
When we lived in Tennessee, I attended the big Duck Duck Goose Sale there. In the Roanoke Valley, I attend the “Back on the Rack” Consignment sale. If you are from Virginia and live nearby, it’s a must visit sale!
While there are people who go on the first day of the sale to pick up big ticket items before they’re picked over, I’m not one of them. I don’t go to these type of sales to buy up big toys. I can get that kind of stuff used locally.
I wait until the last day or two of the sale. Why? Often these types of large sales have a special day at the end where items are a specific % off. I love when it hits 50-75% off because then I can get more bang for my buck! Now, there are always some items there that are not discounted on those days because the person consigning did not agree to participate in the sale day. I typically skip past those items unless it’s already a great bargain.
This was one of my smaller hauls when I went looking just for boys spring clothes. You can see in the corner of a tag at the bottom it shows (Discount: Yes) which shows that it was an item eligible to be marked down the day I went. Therefore I did not spend $2.50 on the item. Typically I attend when it’s a minimum of 50% off.
2. Go in knowing what you need.
Shopping used won’t save you money if you go in and just buy willy nilly. Go in with a list. Write down what sizes you need, what items in those sizes you need, and have a price point in mind. Are you willing to spend $5.00 on a Gymboree top? Or do you prefer to stay under $3.00 per item. Have an idea what you are okay with spending per item.
I make a list on my phone of what I need. Last winter we needed snow boots, snow pants, baby clothes and such. So the first thing I made a beeline for were the snow boots. I narrowed it down to 2 pairs for one of my kids that were in the price range I wanted and in great condition. I then shot off a picture to my husband to show that kid so they could pick. I don’t generally take the kids with me if I can avoid it. It ends up costing me more if they’re all along because they’ll find a cute toy or outfit that’s on sale but not practical and I end up caving and then there goes the budget.
3. Know your Brands.
Regardless of where I shop for clothing for my kids, I avoid certain brands while watching out for others. I never buy Walmart/K-Mart brands when shopping used. I don’t love the quality, especially when a lot of what we buy gets worn by multiple kids. I watch for higher end, well made, quality pieces at lower prices. I will sometimes buy Cat & Jack stuff at consignment even though it’s not as high quality as Gap, Old Navy, etc. It’s cute and colorful and still cheaper at consignment generally than new. So I do make exceptions for that. As my girls get older, I will also buy them some Justice brand items even though it’s not my favorite because they love it and consignment prices are way better than the original pricing on that brand.
4. Double Check the Tag!
This is one of my biggest tips of advice. I’ve run into this issue a few times. I’ll be going through a particular size of stuff trying to see everything without it taking hours and I spot a super cute outfit. I toss it in the cart. We get home, I pull it out excitedly and realize.. the tag on the inside of the garment says a different size than the price tag. It’s a mistake I’ve seen at both our local Once Upon a Child and at the big consignment sale. Mistakes happen. The wrong tag goes on the wrong item or the person tagging doesn’t know how kids clothing sizes work. So then I’ve gotten a great deal on an item we can’t use. If I had double checked the sizing, that money could have went towards an item that could have been used.
5. Eagle Eye the Item
Sometimes at one of these sales, I will find an amazing item at an amazing price point. I’ll toss it in the pile. Then, when I get home, I realize it has a stain that I did not notice. My favorite large consignment sale does notate stains with a small sticker which is super helpful. Go in knowing what you are okay with. Prior to living on 5 acres where the kids spend a lot of time playing outside, I was not okay with play quality items. However, I’m okay with buying some play quality stuff now as long as it’s an amazing deal.
6. Match Up Items
I have to do this mainly with my girls clothing and with infant items. I try to make sure (especially when we need a whole wardrobe in one size) that there are items that mix and match. Those super cute baby pants in bright colors are cool and all.. as long as you have onesies or shirts that match. If I see a super cute skirt the girls would love, I make sure I find a top that matches. Otherwise, it never gets worn and just sits in their drawer taking up space. I also try to make sure I don’t leave with multiple items in similar colors. For instance, sure there are 5 pairs of leggings in great condition but they’re all navy blue or hot pink. Nobody needs 5 identical items. So I pick out the best brand for the best price.
7. Bring a Rolling Hamper
While some consignment sales do have carts available, a lot of them do not. Especially if the sale is being held in an old warehouse or empty storefront. Bring a rolling hamper or big Ikea bag to haul your finds around in. If you find a big item (baby gear, big toy, bike), you can take it to the front check out area and ask the sale workers where to set it. You don’t want to leave those types of items where they are while you are searching for other good deals because someone else may walk away with it. Big items such as cribs typically have a tag that you can rip the bottom half off of.
8. Keep an Open Mind
While it’s important to go in with your list- don’t be afraid to snatch up a good deal even if it wasn’t on your list! We walked out of the spring sale with a bike for my 7 year old for something like $4.00. It was originally marked to sell for around 30ish dollars. It wasn’t on our list but I knew it was something we would be needing to buy soon since she had outgrown her first bike. If I hadn’t been flexible and kept an open mind, we would have had to buy a new bike full price! (Although in the interest of full disclosure, she left her bike near the driveway and it got smooshed and we did end up having to buy another. Hard life lesson)
This was the picture I sent my husband of her trying it out before I grabbed it and ran for the register. If we’d shopped the first day of the sale instead of the higher discount day, we would’ve spent more on it. However, even though there were less options the last day, we still found a great bike for a great price!
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