How To Clothe Your Kids Without Going Broke


At the rate they grow, a kids’ clothing budget can get way out of control. It doesn’t have to, though. Here are three ways to clothe your kids without going broke.


It’s no big secret, kids cost money. They’re free to conceive, but from that point on, you’d better add them to your budget. The government took the time to calculate it and decided that couples who had a child in 2015 should expect to spend $13,000 a year on them, which adds up to $233,000 by the time they turn 17. Those babies appear to have been on sale, though, because the ones born in 2014 are supposed to cost $245,000.


Kids don’t really have to be that expensive, though. Many people manage to have large families without falling into bankruptcy. You just need to be careful with your expenses and cut costs where you can.


One good place to cut costs is clothing. I don’t know about you, but my kids just won’t stop growing. It seems like every time I turn around their pants are too short again or their belly buttons are starting to show. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s a little too cold to just let them just run around naked. So how do I keep them clothed without going broke? Let me tell you my secrets.



Hand-me-downs are a tried-and-true classic, probably as old as history itself. Growing up, as the second girl and fourth child of a family of limited means, I didn’t know that new clothes even existed. And I was okay with that. It never affected my self-esteem or my social status. Even now I still love getting hand-me-downs from my older sister.


Cross-Gender Sharing

You may think that that only works if your kids are the same gender. Not at all. Girls are allowed to wear colors other than pink. If grown women wear blue Nikes, why can’t little girls? Nikes are expensive (but they’re durable and so easy to put on little feet!), so I’m not going to get rid of a perfectly good pair of blue ones just to run out and buy brand new pink ones.


My daughter thinks it’s really cool to wear T-shirts that used to belong to her brother. It doesn’t mean that I dress her like a boy or don’t buy her girl clothes. There are plenty of things that don’t get passed down because they are too gender-specific, but there are also plenty of things that work well on either child.



The best source of hand-me-downs is family and friends. My best friend was smart enough to have kids a couple of years after me and have them in the same gender order. She will hardly ever have to buy her kids clothes. The week after she found out she was having a girl she already had 6 big diaper boxes full of clothes in her garage. If you’re not lucky enough to have friends or family in a position to pass clothes on to you, second-hand stores can still be cheaper than buying new.


Overcoming Bias

I know some people have issues with used clothes for psychological or social reasons. My husband struggled at first. For him, you only wore used clothes if you couldn’t buy new. You buy new clothes not just because they are new, but to show that you can. It’s a status thing. As with everything, it’s a trade-off. If you spend more money on your kids’ clothes, you are spending less somewhere else. Their college fund? Groceries? Only you can decide what it is worth to you.


Shop Off Season

I like to buy clothes at the end of the season for the following year. September is a great time to buy summer clothes because stores are trying to make way for their fall collections. February and March are an awesome time to buy boots and jackets. I just bought myself a pair of boots that were marked down 80%!


If you buy at the end of the season, you have fewer options, but usually, prices are marked down 50% or more. Stores like Kohls and Fred Meyer usually have really good clearance sections. Now is the time to go out and buy next year’s winter coats. You know your kids will need them.


Buy Big

One thing I’ve learned in my 5 years as a parent is that kids grow. It’s pretty much guaranteed, they always grow. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could buy my daughter, who is 3, a size 6 shirt and someday it will fit her. So, when you’re getting great deals by shopping offseason, don’t be afraid to buy up more than just one size.


You do have to be careful when buying seasonal clothes, though, because sometimes kids grow faster or slower than expected. One year my daughter had grown out of half of the summer clothes I had bought her by spring. Luckily, she wears T-shirts year-round so the clothes weren’t wasted. Just be careful when buying things like snow pants and flip-flops.


My kids each have a box in their closet of clothes that is too big for them. It’s great, because not only do I save money by buying the clothes at its cheapest, but when they surprise me with a growth spurt, instead of having to run to the store I just make a beeline for the closet. It’s pretty convenient.



Kids don’t have to be so expensive. And they don’t have to be trendy little beauty queens. Ask yourself, what will have the greatest impact on their lives, spending this money on a real Polo shirt or getting out of debt or a college fund? It’s your money. You make the choice.


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