kids grow like weeds so clothing them can be costly trying to keep up with them. having 4 kids of my own (plus 2 step kids), i’ve learned a few tricks keeping them clothed without breaking the budget. (most of these tricks work for adults too, except the first one.)
always buy up a size, sometimes 2 depending on the article
for instance, when i buy a coat for my kids, i always look for a well made, new looking coat that is 2 sizes too big. sleeves can be rolled up and it also makes for more room when wearing bulkier clothing that often happens in winter time. it extends the life of the clothing often by 2 years. i have even purchased shirts that were too big to wear as shirts but worked as dresses for a year or two until it was grown into enough to wear as a shirt. jaden has such a shirt that is now sadly in its last year of service for us. but, she has worn it since she was about 18 months and is going to be 5 later this summer. i’d say i got my $2 out of it!
jaden at 21 months wearing a shirt as a dress
cut back on expectations that kids need to own 10 pairs of pants, 50 shirts, 5 coats, 8 pairs of shoes, etc.
really, do they need to have 1 shirt for every day of the month? if you watch your kids, you’ll notice they only wear about 5-7 of those shirts (unless they are like my 14 year old son who just keeps wearing through all his clothes until everything is dirty and he can’t delay washing his clothes any more–yet another reason to cut back on the amount of clothing they own).
same for pants. mine only wear about 3-4 pairs of pants over and over again and anything else just sits there in the drawer, taking up space.
and, no, kids don’t need a coat or shoes to coordinate with every single outfit they own. an everyday coat can get most of us by, a ‘sunday best’ coat for dressing up is great to have but often not necessary and an old coat is great for wearing around the barnyard and for outdoor play to keep the everyday coat clean although again, not necessary. shoes are the same: an everyday pair (usually tennis shoes for the older ones) plus an old pair for around the farm (usually rubber boots or work boots) and a nice pair for dress up, plus a pair of sandals for summertime.
thrift shop and garage sales are golden
i can’t remember the last time i’ve purchased new clothing from a box store for my kids, excepting underwear and socks (although i have found some brand new ones still in packaging at thrift stores). none of my kids have ever objected to shopping at a thrift store and most have even begged for me to take them there! thrift shopping is a lot of fun, especially when we stop by the book section and find the harry potter book that’s been missing from our collection…
it seems our society has a sweet tooth for the latest fashions so once last year’s fashion is no longer stylish, off it goes to the thrift shop. luckily, none of us are fashionistas so last year’s fashions do us just fine, thank you! we have found some great name brand clothing that looks brand new at the thrift stores.
make a master list of what items are needed to keep you focused when shopping
it can be a little overwhelming to go into a thrift store and focus on what you are looking for. i keep a running list for each kid of what they need now and what they may need in the future and what size they fit into now. by knowing we already have 7 pairs of jeans and only need 1 pair of dress or casual style pants, i am able to walk past those jeans calling to me on the rack and head over to the khaki section. and, when you’re towing little ones who have short attention spans, having a list helps keep your mind focused so you aren’t saying to yourself ‘now, did she need a long sleeved white shirt and a black tank top or a long sleeved black shirt and a white tank top?!
do clothing exchanges with friends who have kids older and younger than you
of course, charity begins at home so always hold on to clothes that you can pass down to your own but even then, if you know your younger child won’t like that style/color/design, then by all means, pass it on. this keeps the clutter out of the house, encourages friends to gift back new items (which cheers younger ones who always feel they have to wear big sis/bro’s clothing and it’s not fair that the older ones get new clothes but they don’t) and helps everyone out. i am always thrilled when a friend has a baby younger than our kids because it means i have someone else to pass our outgrown clothing to!
figure out ways to patch, recycle, upcycle, refashion clothing
jean ripped? my daughter loves patches on her jeans. we’ll cut out heart shapes from coordinating corduroy and hand sew it on for a fun look. i also use that tear mender glue (thanks nita for the suggestion!) for mending rips more discretely. i have also used fulled wool sweaters to patch holes…they make for great winter jeans, nice warm and cozy!
i use old clothing as patching material as well. sometimes, i’ll cut the legs off of jeans to make shorts and i’ll use the legs for patching material or for making pockets on upcycles and refashioned clothing.
long sleeved shirts get converted to short sleeved shirts when they still fit in the torso but not the wrists for my younger kids. this extends clothing another season. same with pants. even though i like to pass clothing on, if i especially like the clothing items (such as adorable patchwork pants for sage, my 2 year old), i’ll convert it as much as possible to make it last.
a dress made from an old dress shirt and a pillow case
backside of the dress made from a pillow case and old linen dress shirt
sometimes i’ll find an article of clothing that i really like the fabric but something just doesn’t work for my kids so i’ll buy it with refashioning/upcycling in mind. i’ll convert dresses into shirts by adding shortening the hem, make shirts into dresses by adding elastic around the waist area, and even greg’s dress shirts have become dresses and pants for my kids! (the arms make great pants when sewn together and hemmed and elastic added on). fun pillow case fabrics are often fodder for adding trim or bodices to dresses or even do well converted into a skirt. i’ve found women’s skirts that made lovely dresses for my 4 year old when paired up with a matching shirt that didn’t fit right. once the two were sewn together and elastic added (elastic is my friend!), viola! a lovely dress that she now wants to live in.
a girl's shirt and a woman's skirt make a lovely dress for jaden, 4 1/2
this part is so much fun for me to take old things and make them into something new. i often have 3 or 4 future refashions waiting to be finished when time permits. sometimes, i’ll hold onto an article of clothing for years before i come up with a use for it (not so great if you’re trying to keep down clutter). the idea is to have fun with it and see what you can create.
these are ideas i use for keeping my kids clothed without blowing our budget. does anyone else have any ideas they’d like to share on the subject?
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