Thursday, October 9, 2008

Clothes Shopping: not for the faint of heart

I’m going to admit I’m not an expert at school shopping since my oldest is just now starting preschool. But, I am fantastic at buying clothes dirt cheap, so I’d like to pass on some ideas to you.

First off, take an inventory of your child’s clothing. I like to lay out everything by season and size. I pick through and see what has stains/holes/etc and I put them in my salvage pile. These are patched if possible, converted to quilts, or dust rags, etc. Now, I see what will fit for the entire year. That goes in front of me. What is almost or already too small goes in the box I’ve got at my side labeled “Child X’s clothing, age X.

Time to go shopping! Make your list. If your kids are old enough to help, give them a copy of their list and the amount of money you will spend.

I have 3 main ways of shopping. A few notes about my shopping style. I try to buy clothing a year to two years in advance. I also only buy in the off season. Because I’m buying in advance, I have a lot of time to browse this way. Just bear this in mind.

1. In the stores

I don’t buy anything until it is on the clearance rack that has that lovely “take an additional 30-50% off”. I have trained myself to ONLY shop in that section of the store and not even look anywhere else. I have a self imposed limit per article of clothing. If the clothing isn’t in my price limit it needs to be lined with gold or actually be able to put itself on my child. Otherwise, it is not worth it to me. I check all my return policies and keep my receipts for the amount of time I can price adjust them. Then, I watch for sales. If I shop at Sears (just a random store) and 28 days later I see they are having a sale on something I bought, I take my receipt in and get credit back for the difference. Sometimes I just take all my receipts in with me and have a cashier check them for me. I have saved over $40 in one store at one time doing this.

2. Online

When I shop online (and I do a lot) I again, ONLY look at the clearance or outlet sections of the store. I also search for online coupon codes. If I don’t have a code, I don’t shop. I make lists of sites where I have found great deals and I check them regularly for sales. If they don’t have the size I need online, I call the bigger store (the brick and mortar store). For example, I once called The Children’s Place in Boise to see if they had some dresses that the online store was out of. They did, so I reserved all of them and called my friend who lives in Boise. She bought them all and the next time I was in town, she gave them to me. I got 5 dresses for $25!

3. Garage Sales

Before you squirm, remember, soap washes things. That’s why we use it. I always haggle--- unless I can tell that a family NEEDS the money. If I find a place with pretty good clothing, I will give them my number, offer to buy whatever is left after the garage sale and usually they will call me with a great deal on all of the rest of it. I buy it, sort it and keep what I want, then I use the rest to trade other people for things I need, or I sell on ebay.

A few more tips:

-Buy what will last. If you buy cheap quality, it will wear cheaply.

-Kids will live with what you can afford. If they don’t like your budget, let them use their allowance or do work for you to earn money for what they want.

-Trade with friends and family when you can. I trade clothing with a friend of mine as our girls are different ages. We just initial the clothing and when it is outgrown it is returned. Just don’t loan anything extra special if you want to keep something for posterity.

-Barter! Have a friend can some food for you in exchange for clothing, or trade some boy clothes for girl clothes.

-Control yourself. Yes, it’s cute, but do you NEED it? If you don’t, walk away. The end.

-Take good care of it, even when it’s been outgrown. You never know when a surprise baby will show up or when you could trade someone for something good (i.e. 2 years of clothes for a used washing machine).

Using these three main methods and the above tips, I have clothed my children quite well for less than $200 each a year. If I can do it, so can you!

How much clothing does a kid need?!

(This is a minimal amount intended for people who do laundry once a week. With care, this should last a year.)

-2 pairs of jeans

-a pair of khaki and black pants

-a pair of fun colored dress pants

-1-2 pairs of “play” pants

-4-6 short sleeve shirts

-4 long sleeve shirts

-3 sweaters for layering

-2-3 “play shirts”

-4-6 church outfits (can be mix and match or total outfits)

-14pairs of white socks that all match

-1 pair of tennis shoes

-1 pair of brown and black shoes (these can be church worthy shoes)

-1 pair of boots

-2 lighter jackets

-1 heavy winter coat with a hood

-2 sets of mittens, scarf and hat

Online sources for discounts

Local sources for discounts

-Sunday’s Post Register

-Your local library (for money saving books)

-The Jefferson Star

-Friends and family who know of good deals

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