Frugal Wardrobe Ideas for Kids

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Frugal Wardrobe Ideas

Whether it’s because you’ve just made a major move and are trying to job hunt and resettle (like we are), or just have other priorities for your financial resources, I’m sure a lot of you, like myself, are trying to dress your kids on a budget. The temptation is sometimes there to just get the cheapest stuff we can find – but that always brings other problems with it – like clothes that rip the first time kids wear them, wear out too quickly, or don’t fit well and LOOK like they were cheap. That’s not what I’m after – I always try to get them a wardrobe that meets their needs, looks nice and is durable, but frugal at the same time.

Here are some frugal wardrobe ideas that have worked for me and made it possible to keep our boys well dressed, but on a budget – I think (hope) they’ll work for you too! Some of these tips can work for your own clothes too.

1. Shop during the off-seasons. The best clothing deals usually surface towards the end of a season or during the off-season. Many moms I know check their kids’ wardrobes at the beginning of each season, take note of what they need and head out to complete their wardrobe. I check their wardrobe at the END of each season and take note of what they’ll need for the same season the following year. This gives me 7-9 months to be on the lookout for great sales and pick up the pieces they need when they’re offered at the most affordable price. It’s not as convenient as one-stop-shopping for clothes, but it can significantly reduce the amount of money you spend on clothes (by up to 75 or 90% if you get things through clearances and high sales).

2. Join moms’ groups on Facebook, Yahoo, Google+ (or even in person!). You’ll hear about low-priced or even free deals through word-of-mouth that you wouldn’t otherwise find out about. Some things will be used, but you’ll usually come across some really good lightly used or even new finds this way. This applies to toys and other items as well as clothes.

3. When you’re looking for new clothing items, check out online discount clothing options.

  • I highly recommend Zulily. It sells quality brands at huge discounted rates, usually around 75% off of the shelf price. This leads to quality, durable products at a very affordable price. Be aware, however, that Zulily is a first come, first serve site, and because its deals are so affordable, items go quickly, so an item you see today might not be available tomorrow, or might be out of your size. If you’re looking for a very particular item (specific brand, specific style/color) for your kids, it might not be the best place for you. But if you have a more general idea of what you want, such as just the clothing type and/or color, this can be a real treasure chest! Zulily also has great deals for women’s and men’s clothing. It sells shoes and toys as well, also at discounted rates, but personally, I haven’t found ordering these categories through Zulily to be as much of a savings as their clothes. You are required to sign up to view the Zulily category, but you can do so for free and then decide whether or not you see anything you want to purchase. You don’t need to enter payment information unless you make a purchase. There are other competitor sites as well, but most of these, from my experience, either charge cheaper prices but deliver cheaper end products, or sell good products at a better rate than the stores, but not as good of a rate as Zulily.
  • Go to department store websites like JC Penny or Macys, and head straight to the clearance section. You’ll often find some great clothing items on sale for significantly less than the shelf prices.

4. Know your colors. Stick to colors that match numerous other colors. Sure, maybe that electric green shirt is eye-catching, but if only matches one pair of pants (or worse yet, doesn’t match anything, which means you need to buy another piece to go with it), you’re investing in something that will be very limited in your child’s wardrobe. Yes, keep in mind the colors that look good on your child – and maybe splurge once in a while on something that might be limited in terms of matching but is just too cute to pass up!), but try to build a wardrobe of pieces that are interchangeable. If you buy 4 shirts and 4 pants that are interchangeable, you’ll have up to 16 outfits! This makes a much more versatile wardrobe than buying four sets of shirts and pants that can’t be mixed and matched.

5. Keep an ear out for good garage sales. I used to really be prejudiced against this, expecting to find clothing that was pretty ragged or worn out. But after agreeing to go to one or two with a friend, I was surprised at how many new, or nearly new things were on sale for excellent prices (one or two dollars). Things that had been given to a child as a gift but were the wrong size, or the wrong season and weren’t worn at all (even with the tags still on!), or lightly used clothing that was just worn once and then stayed in a closet until the child had outgrown it and the parents decided to add it to the garage sale.

6. Learn how to sew – at least basic modifications. Often times, one of the main limitations of “great deals” is sizing – you can find something new or nearly new. Great look. Great quality. Great brand. But just one size too big or small. Think twice before grimacing and putting it back on the shelf. You might be able to adjust it to your child’s size with just a few basic sewing skills, but undoing and shortening or lengthening the hem, or replacing the elastic in the waste with a piece a little shorter or a little longer. It doesn’t always work, but it often does, so take a second look at the piece of clothing, and if a simple alteration is all that’s needed, go ahead and get it! And then, make sure you find the time to make the alterations! Ready to take your skills up a notch? Keep old sweaters even if they have a stain or hole, and repurpose them into hats and mittens, using this tutorial from Shrimp Salad Circus, or this one from Jennifer writing at MLive.

7. Learn how to get really tough stains out. I used to throw out a lot of clothes because the stains weren’t coming out with stain removers no matter how hard I tried. Then I discovered OxiClean, and wished I could get some of the things I’d thrown out back again, because it really has succeeded at getting out lots of really rough stains, including grease stains and messy diaper stains. And if you don’t have OxyClean, or it isn’t working, I’ve also found methods from this guide to getting stains out that have been surprisingly helpful and effective. Putting a little more effort into getting stains out (and getting more information about how to do it) can go a long way in preserving your child’s wardrobe.


Do have any other great tips for dressing your kids on a budget? Please share them with the rest of us in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

2 thoughts on “Frugal Wardrobe Ideas for Kids

  1. What about thrift stores? 95% of my kids’ wardrobe is from thrift stores, where you can get Carter’s and other name brand items that will last for 50 cents/piece (or sometimes a quarter!) by going for the current 50% off or 70% off tag color. And, yes, you’ll often find unused items with tags on for a couple dollars.

    I generally avoid garage sales because the items are often overpriced for what they are worth, and I don’t have the time to drive from one to another only to be disappointed. Sure, there are gems out there, but you have to find them, whereas the thrift store’s always there.

    • Yes – thrift stores are another way! Personally, though, I haven’t had that good of an experience with thrift stores – I sometimes go through tons of racks without finding things the right size, or I see something I think if perfect and then find out that it’s stained or something. I haven’t ruled them out though – I did just get my kids a couple of good pieces from a local thrift shop a few days ago. I should clarify that with garage sales, I’m probably using the wrong term, but don’t know what I’m talking about is called, or even if it’s common in all areas – I’ve been to HUGE outdoor “garage” sale type things where the whole thing is just for kids’ clothing and toys. Tons of sellers set up tables, and the average price is from 50 cents to $3. I don’t know what that type thing is called – it just reminded me of a huge garage sale, only just for kids stuff…

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