Clothing Kids Without Breaking the Bank: Part 3

For anyone who missed the first two parts of this series, you can find them here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Just before I move on with the last of my points on how I buy my kids clothing, I’ve been meaning to post a couple pictures of how I store their clothes, just to give you a visual of it, so here you go:


There’s my Abbie-Monkey (in her monkey pj’s), posing in front of where I store some of their bags of clothing, under her bed. One of these days I’m going to buy a bedskirt (on clearance, of course!) to cover them up. 🙂


Here’s a close-up of the upper half of two bags. The left is Baby Girl 0-3 and 3-6 mth (and includes some newborn neutral), and the right is Baby Girl 6-12 mth. Storing everything this way (despite the fact that it’s not super tidy inside of the bag) makes it just so easy to find exactly what I’m looking for. I do the same thing with all of the clothes that don’t fit them yet, so that this fall I can just grab the Boy 2T bag for Caden and know at a quick glance what I have.

Alright, back to how I buy my kids clothes for cheap. 🙂

6) By planning before I shop

I think it’s definitely worth mentioning that I rarely go to any of these places  (here’s where I shop) without a list in my purse of what my children need, in what size, what quantity and sometimes even what color (this helps to make their wardrobe work together better, and keeps me from buying Abbie 4 slightly different pink t-shirts for the spring).

Here is an example of what part of my list might look like (keep in mind, this is after I have taken inventory of what I already have stashed away):

Caden Spring/Summer (bottoms 18 mths, tops 18 mths or 2T)
4 pairs shorts, various colors
1 pair light dress pants, beige or brown
1 short sleeved dress shirt
1 pair swimming shorts
1 pair running shoes, 1 pair casual dress shoes (both size 5)

Caden Fall (all 2T)
1 pair brown pants, 1 pair jeans
1 zip up sweater or hoodie
1 long sleeved shirt (green or brown)
Winter jacket
etc, etc, etc.

As I move through the kids swap, or from garage sale to sale, or return home from a thrift store, I cross off items that have been bought, and circle the remaining things on my list. Throughout my shopping outings, I frequently refer to my list, to remind myself of what I am keeping my eyes out for and to make sure that I don’t get caught in the trap of “Oh, she doesn’t really need that, but isn’t it pretty?” and stick to what they really do need (and if I have extra money at the end, I can always splurge on the things that I liked, but didn’t need).

7) By sticking to my “rules”

Here are my basic swap meet rules (which apply to most of my children’s clothes shopping in general):

1) I don’t pay more than $5 for any one item, no matter how nice (I broke my rule this winter for a Gap wool winter jacket, paying $10 because I just really needed a jacket for her, but that is a very rare exception and it will definitely last for our next daughter as well- and no, that’s not a hint as to what we’re having!! Your guess is as good as mine! 🙂

2) I always remind myself that no matter how nice those $9 baby Gap jeans are, there is another table (or garage sale) selling something similar for half or less than that price, and I need to leave quickly (before I loose my resolve!) and go find it!

3) I always, always, always barter. And it works best if I can find more than one item at a table, so that I can group the
items together and offer a lump sum for all of it. People are more likely to accept this, as it feels like they are making more money, and they are selling several items at once that they might not otherwise sell.

4) I already mentioned above how I plan ahead and make a detailed list of exactly what my kids
need, which I always bring with me. At several points during my swap meet morning, I will get out that list to check off what I have already bought, and determine what items I need to still keep an eye out for. This really helps to keep me focused on buying needs, not wants.

5) I put in my pocket the specific amount of cash that
my husband and I have budgeted for the needed clothing or for that particular shopping outing. Nothing more. When that money runs out, I’m done. If I finish checking off items on my list before it runs out, I get to have fun or save it for the next need that pops up!

Do you shop for kids clothes with a list? What (if any) are your “rules” for what you buy, how much you spend, etc.?

Join FishMama for Frugal Fridays over at Life as Mom!

Similar Posts


  1. Thanks for sharing….I am going to have to switch to ziplocks as the tubs for my three kiddos clothing are not only getting ridiculously huge to store but are also expensive to keep buying more of.

    Just idea for the bedskirt…you could make your own if you can sew a straight line….would be very inexpensive to use a clearance white muslin for the lining and tulle for the outer side, gathering it so it is ruffled and I bet your little girl would just love it! 🙂 And the clothes would be hidden that way too! 🙂

  2. I mentioned before about my list, similar to yours. GOod idea about also mentioning colours!

    My rules for what I buy are sticking to my list, and not spending more than about $5 max, but I really try to get things for $2 and under. I haven’t had much problems with that using the methods I commented on before with clearance thrift shop prices, coupons, etc. and stocking up far in advance when I see super good deals (like 25 cents per item or less, which has happened when I get a bunch). Thanks for sharing!

  3. I am so thankful for your series, Stephanie. It will save me time and money – I’m a consignment-only shopper for both my boys, but realizing I needed some organization. The lists will help immensely.

    I need to do some garage-sale shopping 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for your ideas!! This is really coming helpful as in the next few weeks I will be doing the Spring/Summer clothes shopping for our little guys.

    I do have a question though. Do you think it is better to by a piece of clothing, like jeans, used rather then new when you plan on passing the clothing down to another child? I have found the used pants that I have bought for my oldest child never really make it through to when my next son needs them…they wear out. However, the new jeans that I bought our 1st son have made it through both kids and are waiting for when there is a 3rd. I feel like I am paying the same amount of money or perhaps even more when I have to replace pants…does that make sense?

    I am definetly going to switch from bins to bags to store the clothing!! I can’t wait to have all that space back in my basement!!!!! Thanks!!

  5. Beth, sounds like you have three little guys, so I can’t say exactly what I would do in your situation. I know that most of the used jeans, etc. that I bought for my daughter are definitely still in good enough shape to be passed on, and since I payed less than $5 for them (many of them even cheaper) I feel really good about that.

    The ones that my son has been outgrowing so far will last another baby as well (same prices), however he’s not quite 2 yet, so we’ll see what I think once he gets a bit rougher on his clothes.

    We have been able to buy some new items of clothing with gift certificates or on smokin’ clearance sales, and those ones definitely have the most life left in them once the kids are through with them (at least, most of them- there is the odd pair that just didn’t hold up well). I guess it all depends on how good of a deal you can find on new pants, right? 🙂

  6. I just found you through Amanda at Kiddio’s links and wanted to say how much I enjoy your site. I recently started a place for women-helping us see Jesus in our everyday lives. I thought you might like to stop by sometime.


  7. Stephanie thanks for answering my question! I have two little guys with the hope of a third someday!! My guys are 4 and 2 and spend A LOT of time on their knees playing trucks, trains etc. And when it is warm enough to be outside then our clothes REALLY get a beating!!

    I think you are right and it all depends on the deal I can score. If I can find a good pair of used jeans for less then $2 that would make it well worth it!! Even if I need to replace them.

  8. In the book “America’s Cheapest Family” the mother shares her index card system — a file of all the clothes on hand in various sizes. That way she doesn’t end up with 3 pair of black dress shoes, sz 10, and no tennis shoes. I haven’t utilized it yet, but I’m just getting to the point where I can’t remember what I bought on clearance or at a garage sale last year for this year’s clothing needs…so I might need to!

    Something to consider when buying used vs. new: you’re also saving the environment by wearing clothes until they can’t be worn another day, because they’re not being tossed out as quickly. Just a happy thought for thrifty people!

  9. This comment goes more with the previous posts on this topic, but don’t forget the beauties of price adjustments. I always hold on to receipts and go back to the store on day 14 or 15 and often times I’ll get up to 50% of my money back! This works especially well during Old Navy clearance.

  10. thank you so much for the xl ziploc bags idea. I have sadly not kept my older daughter clothes for my younger daughter, because I do not like clutter and do not like to see all those totes in the closets and everywhere. I bought the bags today, and put all the summer clothes in the bag (she grew out of them before summer was over):( I slide them under my youngest daughters platform bed, done. No more wasting clothes. I have always taken them to a resale shop, but now we will be the ones reusing these very gentle wore clothes.
    thanks again

  11. There are a couple good barter / trade sites out there. I use CL and Baarter.com – http://baarter.com

    Check ’em out. WIth this economy, it’s definitely worth taking a look to see if you can swap something instead of paying for it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *