10 Ways to Save Big on Kids’ Clothes

It’s back-to-school season, which means new clothes, shoes and gear for kids — and an unpleasant Visa statement for parents.

The National Retail Federation estimates that parents spend roughly $300 per child on back-to-school shoes and apparel — a number that doesn’t include electronics, school supplies or extracurricular activities. In total, the NRF reports that the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend over $600 per child on electronics, apparel and other school needs.

Multiply that times a few kids… and there goes your budget!

But fear not! At Daily Mom, we love a great deal, and have several tricks up our sleeves for saving big when it comes to kids’ clothes! Here are 10 ways you can too:

1. Shop the Sales

It may seem obvious, but never pay full retail on anything! According to a MarketWatch report, the average major retailer releases one new coupon each week. The most frequent discount amount is 20%, the report found, but many stores offer regular promotions that are much higher.

The Gap, for example, averages nearly four coupons or promotions each week — with 20% and 25% offers on rotating categories of items the most common among them. So coordinate your shopping sprees with promotions and save big!

2. Store Credit Cards

If you shop at a certain store frequently, it might make sense to sign up for a store credit card. The Gap, for example, offers card holders a $10 reward card for every $200 spent at Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta (these four retailers make up Gap Inc). That’s basically free money for things you’d be purchasing anyways. If you’re loyal to a certain brand and that brand has especially good incentives for opening a card, it might be worth considering a store credit card. Earn Extra Cash with VITAL. A VISA credit card that pays you for referrals!

While it’s tempting to reap the savings of signing up for multiple store credit cards, think twice before you do. Every time you sign up for a store card, the inquiry (the store checking into your credit) will negatively impact your credit score. Also, store cards often carry a low credit limit, so if you spend a lot, you’ll have a high credit utilization ratio (your balance versus your total available credit) which can also lower your score. Plus, the late fees and interest rates are often higher than normal credit cards — so think twice before signing up!

3. Outlet Malls

We have mixed feelings about outlets — sometimes, it’s questionable how great a “deal” they really are. As such, we recommend going to the outlets during Labor Day or another “big sale” holiday, when stores slash their “discounted” prices. Also check online ahead of time for any sort of coupons — many major outlets advertise sales and offer printable coupons.

4. Consignment/Thrift Stores

Don’t dismiss consignment stores — at the rate kids grow through their clothes, many of the items at second-hand stores are like-new. Plus, you can even find brand-new items if you look! The national chain Once Upon a Child has locations all around the country, and parents can even sell their kids’ gently worn clothing for some extra cash.

Nowadays, there are also many online retailers specializing in second-hand kids’ clothes. Thred Up lets you shop for individual items — from brands including Old Navy, Osh Kosh, Gymboree, Ralph Lauren and Carter’s. Meanwhile, BabyOutfitter specializes in designer kids’ brands like J. Crew, Baby Gap and Diesel — and only accepts items in excellent condition, so you can feel confident about your pre-worn purchases.

5. Second-Hand Sales

These sales happen all around the country — and are a “must” for any bargain-hunting mama. Think “neighborhood garage sale,” but bigger, better and all in one place!

These events are generally put together by local mom groups or schools, and held in the spring and/or fall. You’ll need to bring cash for an “admission fee” (usually a dollar or two), as well as for your purchases (most accept major credit cards; however, you’ll have to pay a surcharge). For a listing of events near you, check out Consignment Mommies.

6. Rummage/Yard Sales

If you’re willing to sort through piles of shoes and apparel, there are treasures to be found at neighborhood yard sales. The main benefit of yard sales is the ability to haggle; usually, sellers just want to get rid of their stuff, and are willing to be flexible with prices. Have some patience, and you can score some major bargains!

Fall and spring are prime yard sale season; check Craigslist for upcoming sales in your area — and watch for street sales, for even more bargain-hunting opportunities.

7. Organize a Swap

If you have a group of mom friends, consider hosting a clothing swap. Make brunch, hire a babysitter, and have moms and kids over for a play date and clothing swap. “Charge” a few bucks per person to cover the babysitter, and have everyone bring a set number of items to swap (for free!). This is a great way to update your child’s wardrobe with clothes from people you know!

8. DIY

No — we aren’t talking about hand-sewing your kid’s winter wardrobe! However, if you’re crafty, consider putting together their Halloween costume or mending a ripped pair of pants. It will save you money and teach your kids an important lesson about the value of a little hard work.

A quick search on Etsy and you’ll find adorable hand-made patches in all designs, materials and colors. These iron-on patches are a simple and fun method for covering hole-y jeans or reinforcing elbows on a beloved sweater!

9. Hand-Me-Downs

If you have multiple kids, you probably love this one! Hand-me-downs are convenient, free and eco-friendly. Everyone always over-buys for their first-born — between what you, the grandparents-to-be and baby shower guests give you, there are usually more onesies and pajamas than your baby can wear. In fact, your baby might grow so quickly, he won’t even wear some of the clothes.

You don’t have to save everything; as a rule of thumb, only save items without holes/major stains/in good condition (you know, like the stuff you’d see at a second-hand store). Set aside a handful of items in each age range, making sure there are things like short- and long-sleeves, pants and pajamas for each size. Your future self will thank you when you don’t have to purchase an all-new wardrobe for #2 (or #3)!

10. Birthday/Holiday Gifts

If you’ve been eying a new winter coat or big-ticket item, ask a grandparent or relative to get it as a gift for a birthday or holiday. Most grandparents love buying clothing for their grandkids, and feel useful being able to provide something your child needs.

Bonus Tip #11: Enter fun giveaways from Daily Mom!

Here at Daily Mom, there’s always some sort of fun giveaway going on, so be on the lookout for items you’re interested in. You could win those kids’ shoes you’ve been coveting — for free!

So shop smart this back-to-school season — and you’ll be amazed at how much you can save. Use the savings to splurge on something fun like a family trip or early holiday shopping — or take the responsible route and stash it in your kids’ college funds!

For more money-saving secrets, check out our posts on Successful Secondhand Shopping Tips and Stocking Up to Save: Clothing!

Sources: 1. National Retail Federation, After Splurging in 2014, Families Trim Back-to-School Spending for 2015 | 2. Marketwatch, 5 Stores Where You Should Never Pay Full Price | 3. U.S. News & World Report, 5 Things to Know Before Signing Up for a Store Credit Card

Photo credits: Sarah M., rainbow of credit by frankieleon | Ashley Sisk Photography | hand-made patches by Irina Kovalchuk | twenty-three/three-sixty-five by Laura Bittner.

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Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her free time, she does freelance work for Cincinnati Parent, Dayton Parent and Indy's Child, and blogs about her adventures with three kids in the Queen City.

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