I’ve steered away from yard sales in recent years. I’ve also declared [many times] that I will never again have one myself! Every time I do anyway, my husband is like, “Didn’t you say you were never going to do this again?” But that’s another story…
But I have a Goodwill here that I love. And a Thrift Store, too. If you’ve been reading here for awhile you are quite aware of my love affair with second-hand shopping…
My challenge for myself in recent years is to not buy something just because it’s a good deal. So what if that cute paisley shirt with butterflies and sparkles that my daughter loves is only $1.25? Does she need another shirt? How full is her dresser? Her closet?
If you’re like me and you don’t have a season for clothes shopping for your kids but are constantly on the look-out for good deals as you happen upon them, it’s important that you have a plan. It’s important that you know what they actually need. Or you do end up buying that cute paisley shirt with the butterflies and sparkles only to discover that it won’t even fit in the drawer along with all the other cute shirts she already owns and come the end of the season you’re discovering clothes at the bottom of the drawer that she never even wore!
Ask me how I know this.
I recently read a quote from Mary Hunt where she talked about people misspeaking when they say they’re saving money because they’re buying something on sale. “This shirt was 80% off — I saved so much money!”
As she points out, we’re not saving money: we’re spending less.
Ooh, I puffy-heart Mary Hunt. She really gets to the crux of the matter, doesn’t she?
There’s a reason women love those free gifts that come with a purchase: we love to feel like we’re getting something for nothing! And if something’s on sale, well, that’s close enough, right? We women can get real creative when it comes to crunching numbers in stores: “Hey, I saved $20 on these pants because they were on sale, so now I can get myself that cute sweater over there with the money I saved!” Never mind if we don’t need it; that’s not the point. It’s our duty to optimize a good deal.
So back to buying clothes for your kids. Sometimes, sometimes, it’s easier for moms to rein in spending on themselves, but when it comes to their kids? Well, they’re suckers. “It’s for the children.” Seriously. And there’s a reason that stores have so much more of a selection for girls’ clothes than for boys: we buy more for our daughters! It’s so fun! They’re so appreciative!
At least my daughter is. It is so fun to bring home some new finds just to see the look on her face. Sometimes she even gasps and covers her face, like she can’t even believe what she’s seeing.
And while many of these clothes she needs, yes — children do grow, after all — some of them? Not so much. I just know how much she’ll love them. And they’re such a good deal.
Saving Cents and Using Sense
But lately I’ve been trying to economize not just in cents, but also in sense.
- How many clothes does my daughter need?
- Is she really enjoying all that she owns?
- Does she using everything she owns?
- What precedent am I setting for her?
Storing Off-Season Clothing
A big part of this process is organizing what you already have. Buying clothes throughout the year requires storing off-season items. It’s important to have a system for this so you don’t stash something away and then forget that you have it.
I’ve usually used bins for this purpose. When I come home with clothing I’ve found for the kids for the next season, I stash them in the same bin. I like to keep these bins in their rooms, either in their closets or under their beds. (I’ve even been known to stick them in a corner with pretty material draped over them and — wa-la! — it’s a table!) Otherwise, they get stashed in random corners around the house until I “get around” to putting them away in that obscure storage corner on the top shelf in the furnace room, or wherever. As long as they’re easily accessible, it’s good. Eyesores, we can work around.
Ideally, I go through these bins every few months to refresh my memory on what I’ve gotten them. Typically, though, I’m not looking through them again until the weather starts changing. This sometimes causes me to have purchased more of the same type of clothing than I really needed to because I’d forgotten I already had a Spring jacket — or whatever — stashed in there at the bottom, but I’m slowly getting better about that.
I just went through Peter’s and Olivia’s clothes a couple of weeks ago, for instance. And I discovered that Olivia has plenty of long-sleeve shirts to start her out for the year. This information became vital the next time I was at the Thrift Store and saw a cute long-sleeve shirt I knew she’d love — but I passed. Yea for me!
That shirt was a good deal, mind you. But so were all the other shirts that she already owns.
As the season wears on (pun intended) kids will continue to grow, and I will continue to purge their clothes as they outgrow them. I will also continue to keep my eye out for good deals as I’m out and about; rarely do I ever go “clothes shopping” anymore, at least not for my little ones.
Teenagers Require a Different System
Because I have a teenager, I know this system with the little kids will not be the one I use forever. In fact, our teenager being responsible for budgeting for his own clothing out of his allowance has been working amazingly well so far. Unfortunately, it also entails “clothes shopping”, as I rarely trust myself to buy things on the fly for him; nor am I looking on a regular basis. He will come to me every now and then with great urgency in an accusatory tone, “I need underwear!” As though I have known this for months and months and have refused to take him shopping despite his persistent pleas. I am still practicing the phrase, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” But I don’t think he has it memorized yet.
Every now and then I will come home with some random t-shirt that I found at the thrift store for 35 cents or something ridiculous, and I give it to my son with great ceremony and tell him it is a gift and he can thank me later. These shirts are rarely good for anything other than “night shirts” for Conner, but he is appreciative nonetheless. It’s amazing how that happens when you start having to buy things for yourself…
Kids and Clothing Choices
I do think it’s important that children have a say in the clothing that they wear, which is one reason why I think our system with Conner is working so well: he would rather have fewer items that cost a little more instead of more clothes that he doesn’t like as much. Quality over quantity. And he defines quality. This is a valuable, discerning skill to develop. And he has no one to argue over the particulars with but himself and his pocketbook.
I am planning on going through Olivia’s clothing with Olivia very soon. Her tastes have been changing. For instance, no longer does she favor dresses over absolutely anything else. *sniff* In fact, last summer she had one pair of shorts to her name: I had always focused on buying summer dresses for her as she had always preferred those in the past. But by this August we noticed that she was starting to wear Conner’s old boxers that I had kept in her drawer as an option to wear at nighttime. Yea. She was dressing herself in boys’ underwear.
So I’ll be keeping my eye out for deals on girls’ shorts for her to wear next summer. Ahem. I’ve already found one pair. I think it put me back a quarter. Yes, at the Thrift Store. Along with several Spring and summer shirts for next year, all going in the bins. The whole stash cost me less than $5. *sigh* I’m going to miss my Thrift Store.
In the meantime, I am very interested in having her tell me with her own words what items in her drawers she likes and what she doesn’t. My little girl is a pleaser, she is. When you give her something she’ll tell you she loves it — and she probably means it at the time. But when you press her later to give an opinion, a different one might appear. At seven — going on eight *gulp* — she’s old enough now to start having a say on what she’d prefer to wear, within reason. And there’s no sense me bringing home — or keeping in her drawer — anything that doesn’t fit within her preferences. We are too privileged in this country, with too many worthy clothing options, to keep things we don’t like. Better to pass them along to someone who can use them — or better yet, to not acquire them in the first place. I am very grateful to have the choices we have.
What is your working method for buying and storing your children’s clothing? Do you find yourself ever forgetting items you have stored away? Or buying items that ended up never being worn? Or do you strictly shop for clothing as it is needed? Please share in the comments — whether your methods have worked or not. We can all learn from successes and failures, don’t you know. 😉