Occasionally figures are published regarding how much it costs to raise children. The costs are often eye-watering! One of the major costs for kids is clothes. But clothing your kids on a budget can save your family a lot of money.

Budget for clothes, for every child – every year

Something always comes up even if you think you can get by with what you’ve got or with hand-me-downs from others: the school uniform that gets inadvertently ripped, the shoes that get holes in them or the child that grows faster than expected.

Make sure each child has a budget category for their clothes. Set out to stick within the budget, or try to beat it! Save receipts and write the child’s name on the top or each child’s name beside what you’ve purchased.

Compare what you’ve spent against the budget often, and know where you stand with what you can still afford to buy.

If what’s left in the budget means you cannot buy another item new – try other options like second hand stores, online purchases or garage sales that specify children’s clothing.

Take stock of what you have

There’s no point in trying to shop for clothes within your budget, if you don’t already know which items you truly need.

Keep a running inventory of clothes by size that you have in your household, and each time you are given something, buy something or need to throw something out – adjust the inventory.  It might help to keep this in a family notebook, on your computer or tape it to the back of the relevent child’s bedroom door.

Seeing at a glance what you already have, your inventory will make wardrobe gaps easy to spot and sale shopping will become much more effective.

A typical inventory for a two year old might look like this:

Have Need
Jacket – winter 1 0
Jacket – rain 0 1
Underwear 6 4
Sweatshirts 2 1
Jeans 1 1
Sweatpants 2 0
Pyjamas 2 0
Long sleeve tees 3 0
Short sleeve tees 3 0
Shorts 1 2
Swimsuit 0 1

Here, you can quickly see what your child is missing from their wardrobe and when a good sale comes up, you know instantly what to look for – hopefully saving you both time and money.

Remember: if they don’t truly need it, then don’t spend the money!  What at first may look a real bargain will be money wasted if you get home and add it to the pile of ten other similar items.

Encourage school aged children and teens to be involved in their own inventory and budget.  Let them know what you are willing to buy for them, and what extra items they might want to save birthday/Christmas money for or do extra chores to earn.

Plan as much in advance as possible

The more you can keep inventories like the one above, the more you can look for items in larger sizes that will add to clothes your child will need as they grow – and this should mean you never have to pay full price for an item.

Plan at least one year ahead, so that you can buy the clothes for your child the following year at the end of the appropriate season this year (for example, buy in the last month of winter when expensive items such as jackets are usually heavily discounted to make way for the shop’s Spring/Summer stock).

Buy online

If you’re buying new, look out for online stores that allow you to return the items if they’re not what you expect – or aren’t quite true to size so don’t fit. Check out BabyBites for a great range of cheap kid’s clothing and toys.

If you’re genuinely not concerned about returning the items, you can sometimes find stores in other countries such as the US or UK that will ship to New Zealand for free – and prices for their clothing can often be very reasonable.

If you’re buying second-hand from an auction site or similar, ask questions as to the condition of the goods. Children’s clothing may be very well worn by the time it no longer fits – so second-hand can mean you get goods that aren’t great value when weighed against buying new, on sale.

Organise a clothes swap

This can be a fabulous way to move on things that are in reasonable condition but are no longer needed, and end up with things you and your children could get a lot of use from.  There are many ways to organise a clothes swap, from the very formal to completely informal – here are some ideas:

Look for groups your kids are involved in with a number of children around the same age and you will probably have a captive audience for your clothes swap event.

Other ideas

  • Consider the old adage for occasions traditionally celebrated with presents: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read – so something nice to wear is included
  • If you know a family whose children are slightly older than yours, mention to them that you could buy some items for online-auction type prices, to save the hassle of that person having to list them online
  • When there’s someone in the family that knits, utilise their skills!  This is especially great for babies and toddlers as knitting small items doesn’t take long.  Offer to get some wool for the knitter (there are some good deals online).  Don’t be intimidated by washing wool – a delicates bag, a cold wash wool/delicates cycle on a washing machine and even regular washing detergent will be fine in most cases
  • Same as above regarding making the most of any sewers in the family – keep an eye out for bargains on material.  You can find quite a lot of patterns online for free
  • Many schools have uniform swap programmes in-house – enquire with your school’s office to check this out
  • Look for area-specific Facebook pages where mums list items for sale.  As there are typically no fees involved in them doing so, you can get some great deals and may not need to pay postage.

There are many ways to save money while bringing up children.  Clothing your kids to a budget can be done – and you will end up with more funds in other budget categories if you put a little effort into planning ahead.

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Sally is the Community Manager here at Kiwi Families. She fills her time with her handsome, busy boys and her handsome, busy husband; trying out new recipes and researching and writing about family life in Aotearoa.

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People often comment on what awesome clothes my 1 year old wears – and I confess, I have never bought any new clothes, I didn’t see the point as he would out grow them so fast & they can be so expensive! So all his clothes I have bought, are from 2nd hand shops, garage sales are best! – and as you mention in the article – the trick is planning ahead! I had his 1 year old clothes wardrobe full & ready with everything he would need along time before he turned 1! A box in his wardrobe has… Read more »

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