Some Ways We Save Money (And Have Fun) With Kid Clothes

One of the most common questions on instagram/Facebook/Twitter when we share a photo isn’t “what paint color is that?” or “who makes that lamp?” – it’s “where did you get that shirt/dress/skirt?” – and they’re not talking about me (or John)… they’re talking about Clara. Yes, there have been a bunch of requests for a post about how we score deals/save money in the kid clothing department along with where we get her clothes. So whoop, here it is. And thanks to all of those aforementioned instagram photos that we’ve shared, we have a whole bunch of shots to use throughout this rundown.

Admittedly it’s kinda weird to analyze your kid’s clothing in so much detail (she’s two! we just buy things we think are cute and try to save money when we can) but I realized when I was writing this up that we’ve actually learned a decent amount over the last two years of dressing a tiny person. And there are definitely things we wish we had known in the beginning, which would have saved us money and time – so maybe they’ll help someone else out there. So without further ado, the story of Clara’s clothes, as told by our instagram feed…

Most of Clara’s clothing comes from these four places:

  1. Hand me downs from her sweet cousin Elsa (or the three year old who lives next door)
  2. Old Navy (usually on the clearance rack or purchased with a coupon)
  3. Target (always on the clearance rack)
  4. H&M (they have the cutest stuff, especially summery dresses)

Of course she also occasionally gets things as gifts or we get gift cards to a place like The Gap for our birthdays (and spend the money in their kids department instead of on ourselves). And we’ve also ducked into other stores from time to time, like the Carter’s Outlet near John’s parents’ beach house. But I’d definitely say the majority of her stuff comes from the four sources above. Like the dress in the picture above (from the clearance rack at Target) for example.

It was actually a birthday gift for her from John’s sister Emily, but we love that she knows one of our favorite Clara-clothing spots (I think it was around $6). It’s a size 2T, which should last Clara at least a year (we can add jeggings underneath to carry it into colder temps or to cover things up if it gets shorter as she grows). And it might seem obvious, but we’ve finally realized that dresses are often the most bang for our buck in the clothing department since they’re just one piece (so instead of finding a cheap t-shirt for $4 with cheap shorts for $4, that dress is an entire outfit for $6).

Here is a dress from H&M, which was $12. Initially I thought that was expensive (I’m cheap, so I like things in the single digits – anything over ten makes me flinch, haha) but Clara has worn the heck out of it. Probably at least once a week for the entire summer so far. So by the end of its life I’d guess the cost per wear will probably be around fifty cents. And if we hand it down to a future kiddo it could be even less.

Unlike a Beverly Hills housewife, Clara wears her outfits a whole bunch of times. You might see her petting goats in something one week…

… and playing with Barbies in the same outfit a week or two later.

This is a clearance skirt from The Gap and a white top from Old Navy. I think this outfit total was around $7 ($4 for the skirt and $3 for the top). Basically the top + bottom equation with her is usually: colorful blousey top + basic jeggings/dark jeans OR colorful skirt or pink/yellow jeans + basic top (like this white ruffled tank top). Something sort of classic with something else that’s bright and fun. That way it’s not too boring or too crazy, it’s a little bit of each. And when it comes to trying to “make” outfits from random items that she has in her drawers like a pair of jeggings or a cute t-shirt, I can now make pairings pretty much on autopilot with that general equation. So as weird as it is to have a “Clara clothing formula” it saves us time (and money spent on things that wouldn’t fit in as easily). And she seems to really like her clothes (last night while going to visit her grandparents she said she couldn’t wait to show them her “pretty pretty dress”).

Another great example of that equation would be one of my favorite Clara outfits ever. See how the basic printed t-shirt (featuring a Burger lookalike from the J Crew Outlet) + a girly ruffled soft pink skirt (a hand-me-down from the girl next door) can add up to something playful and sweet at the same time? Especially when paired with a RAD tattoo. Haha.

Another example of this would be one of my favorite shirts (from Old Navy for around $8), which you can see in this picture. It’s blousy and flowy and Clara LOVES it. Everything from the big sleeves with the scalloped trim on the bottom to the colorful flowers float her boat. So we pair it with basic jeggings or jeans most of the time. Just because it’s an easy foolproof outfit. And it keeps me from having to buy more specific bottoms that “match” it (ex: purple pants, orange capris) since we have enough classic items like jeans/jeggings in our drawers that already work with it.

Here’s yet another example of girly/bold/patterned bottoms with something basic on top. This is an outfit I found at the Carter Outlets in Delaware when we stopped there over Memorial Day. I think it was under $10 total for both pieces (total) and Clara has easily worn this at least eight times since then.

When it comes down to numbers, Clara usually has 10-12 “good outfits” in rotation, which is just a number that seems to work well for us since we do laundry once a week and she has some other “messy outfits” that we’ll put her in before doing anything crazy like painting or running around in the mud. So it’s not like she changes clothes three times a day and needs 30 good dresses and pants and tops. I’d say 95% of the time, she wears one outfit all day long. So since 10-12 outfits isn’t really that many, we try not to go for quantity, but for quality. Not by spending a ton of money on the item itself (goodness knows kids get things dirty and grow out of things all the time) but by trying to stay “focused” on things that work well for us (especially Clara) – so she doesn’t end up with dresser stuffed full of mismatched deals with no real pairings or purpose.

We didn’t always follow this technique. When she was smaller we used to go for quantity, so if Old Navy was having a t-shirt sale I’d get three for eight bucks instead of one dress for eight bucks on the sale rack. But as Clara grew we realized that a bunch of clothes that you don’t love (and that you didn’t necessarily buy as an “outfit”) aren’t as easy to use or love as trying to keep your focus and only buying things that you’ll end up reaching for them again and again. One easy question I ask myself before I buy something for her is “will this be something I put in our ‘favorite outfits’ drawer, or will it end up in the middle drawer with a bunch of on-sale mismatched items that she never wears?”

This is a tee we got on clearance from Old Navy with a red skirt from The Gap that Clara got as a gift… wait for it… over a year ago.

So another one of our learned-along-the-way tips would be to ignore the size on the labels when it comes to retiring items of clothing and just go by how they fit. This skirt actually says 12 months in the label, but it still fits her comfortably (and although it’s a little short it has built-in bloomers for toddler modesty, haha). So instead of just stashing it in the tupperware bins in our attic (where we store all of the clothes she has outgrown – more on that here) I’m cool with her wearing it as long as it comfortably fits. We’ve gotten at least one “bonus year” of wear from it already, so I’m psyched. Saves us from buying another one until she truly outgrows it.

Here’s the opposite application of that last tip. If something is too big, you’ll get more wear out of it by figuring out how to get your kiddo into it sooner if at all possible (two summers of use from a dress instead of one = added value). So when I slipped this $8 Target dress onto Clara and it was way too big (the straps were so stretchy the neckline slipped down below her chest), I tried turning it so one of the arm straps went around her neck like a halter. The other strap got tucked into the elastic back of the dress, which doesn’t seem to bother Clara at all, and now she can wear this dress now, and hopefully next year too with her arms where they’re meant to go.

This is another dress from H&M (it was $11). It’s hard to tell from this photo, but it has a pretty eyelet detail on the bottom and it’s a soft blue seersucker material. One thing to notice from the picture is that Clara has a favorite pair of shoes, and it’s her pink Crocs. So those are what she wears 95% of the time.

It has saved us a ton of money to recognize that the girl has a favorite pair of shoes (we used to buy her a bunch of different kinds and she always requested the same ones, to the point that she’d outgrow perfectly pristine shoes without ever wearing them since she favors her Crocs so much). But now we’ve realized that they’re her shoe of choice and we’re ok with pairing them with almost any outfit. Sure, navy shoes might be cuter with this blue dress, but pink crocs send out that “these are the shoes I like” vibe, which we’re cool with.

This dress is from Old Navy. It was $6 on clearance and after stacking additional coupons on top it was $4 at the register. Woot. I always keep Old Navy coupons in a little file folder in my purse (more on that here) so I basically never buy anything there without using a coupon since they pop up in the mail all the time.

In general our theory on dressing Clara is that we want her to be comfortable and cute. We could always spend more, and definitely could spend less, but after two years we think the $6-12 per outfit range is the sweet spot for us. We’ve also finally figured out the stores we like and how things fit her (ex: 3T jeans and PJs at Old Navy fit her like a dream, 2T dresses are better for her from almost everywhere, etc). This is helpful because it saves us money and time (had we invested in three more pairs of 2T pjs without knowing that 3T fits her better, she would have outgrown them faster and we’d be back at the store buying more).

This outfit is all Old Navy. The top was $4 and the jeggings were 2/$7 (so it was $3.50 for this pair). I’d say Clara’s “summer uniform” has been sundresses and the occasional skirt and top, but for the spring, fall, and winter, jeggings and dark denim jeans (along with a few pairs of colorful jeans – in pink & yellow) have been awesome.

And in case you’re wondering, Clara totally goes shopping with us. Her favorite spot ever = the fake family at the front of our Old Navy. She literally runs towards them and says “I see the children and the dog!” and even lifts up the girl’s shirt to look for her belly button.

This is one of my favorite instagram photos ever, and Clara’s wearing a hand-me-down shirt from the girl who lives next door. I thought the checkers on her shirt looked so cute with John’s checked shirt while they were lying in bed, and I’m so glad I grabbed this shot. Makes me melt. And even though you can’t see the rest of this outfit, since Clara’s hair has yet to grow in and she sometimes gets mistaken for a boy, her pink crocs help to add some girl power. Not because we’re weird about gender stuff and covering her in pink, just because we like to throw strangers a bone so they don’t blush profusely after calling her a boy. And Clara actually says “pink and yellow” when you ask her what her favorite colors are. So those definitely get worked in a fair amount when it comes to her clothes.

So that ends our little Clara clothing rundown. I hope our weird analysis of why/what we buy and how many we get/how much we spend somehow helped folks out there who were wondering! What are your favorite kid clothing stores? Do you have any money-saving tips? Or do you have a magic number of “good outfits” that carry you through the week without making you feel overwhelmed (or making your drawers feel overstuffed)?

Psst – I’m obsessed with this beach house. How pretty is it?! Thanks to the sweet reader who suggested the link. I’ve had the page open for days.

Comments

  1. Lauren Nicole says

    FYI – you’re going to really need to up the number of “good outfits” once you start potty training so be prepared for that. ;)

    • says

      Haha thanks! Clara has already peed and pooped on the potty but we have a long way to go! Since cloth diapers are like undies we’re hoping that dresses + cloth dipes might help us go through less outfits, but we have no idea what we’re in for. Haha.

      xo,
      s

    • alex says

      Hey j&s. I just wanted to mention that, while in theory cloth diapers are sort of like undies, they are still absorbant….so, when really potty training, try using just regular panties because they are associated with going to the bathroom and the feeling of having an accident is more easily distinguished. It can be frustrating but ive learned that routine and being repetative are so important. Plus when she goes to day care, she will be part of the whole potty training crowd. Just my little input from what i have experienced.

    • Alice H says

      I also agree with the underwear suggestion. I have potty-trained 3 kids. My older 2 were 2.5 years old and my baby was 21 months when they were peeing/pooping in the potty! And I did underwear only once I decided it was time. (Except at night time, they still got a pull up until 3.) Don’t get me wrong, they have accidents. But I just keep one change of underwear and clothes with us at all times.

    • Megan C says

      We had really good luck with a product called “The Potty Watch” – it played music at 30 min, 60 min or 90 min intervals and reminded our daughter (as well as ourselves) that we should think about “does Cady need to potty?”. After about three months with our potty watch we didn’t need it anymore! It was very low stress and fun – she would dance and say “I DO need to potty!”.

  2. says

    I have a 9 month old and watching Clara’s style, we have dressed her in dresses all summer long! I love little girls in dresses!

  3. audra says

    I love me some Target!!! I generally will buy my girls clothes one size bigger (and always on sale). That way they can wear the pieces longer, especially if they have the adjustable waist. My girls are 5 years apart, and I saved EVERYTHING from my oldest. It doesn’t hurt that my 2 year old is so tiny, she still fits into 9-12 month stuff, so we’re getting a lot of wear out those peices. I have 2 nieces also, so we trade clothes in a pattern: My oldest passes stuff to my oldest niece (4 years), who passes it to my younger niece (18 months- she’s bigger than my youngest), then back to me. It’s the circle of “clothes” life.

  4. Sara says

    I’m obsessed with buying all my son’s clothes at consignment shops – the clothes are always in great shape (the shops around me are very picky with what they will buy and sell in their stores) and it’s a great deal. On facebook, there are “mom’s tag sales” where local moms are buying and selling their own stuff – if you like something, you comment on the picture, and then go meet at like a grocery store parking lot or something and pick it up!

  5. says

    Thanks for the tips. We’re expecting to adopt newborn twins in six weeks, so budgeting will be extra important. Do you guys every thrift for clothes? I was so happy to see lots of great baby and toddler clothes in like-new condition at our Goodwill and Salvation Army last week – Goodwill was $1 an item, and Salvation Army was $3 per bag of baby or toddler clothes.

    • says

      We love hand ne downs do we definitely love the idea of thrift store finds! Just haven’t been lucky since most of the thrift stores we go to are furniture heavy. Probably just looking in the wrong places. Haha.

      xo,
      s

    • Megan C says

      Thrift stores are great until about the 12 month mark. Thrifted baby clothes tend to be gently used, but toddler stuff that was too roughed up to sell/pass down are what generally ends up at the thrift store.

  6. Stephanie N says

    Sweet, love that last pic too. It looks like John asked her a serious question and she is like, “I don’t know”…

    Do you ever look at the thrift stores for clothing? Or just furniture? Love the little table below!
    :)

  7. Susan says

    Such a fun post! I have twin girls and absolutely love the whole “shopping for girls’ clothes” experience. My very best deals, though, are from our local twins’ club consignment sales. You should check it out in your area. The sales are open to the public and are awesome.

    By the way, I share your love of the beach house. Every single room and detail is fabulous!

  8. Kerstin says

    I hope the 3 year old lives next DOOR and not next store!
    Or ist that an expression? I’m not a native speaker, so I sometimes don’t get things right ;-)

  9. Reenie says

    That last pic of John & Clara is absolutely adorable.

    Clara always looks so cute in her stylish clothes =)

    “I see the children and the dog!” …… love that line. ha!!

  10. Lindsay says

    Great tips! This is why I can relate to you guys…you’re so practical & real.

    BTW-that beach house is making me melt. I’m in love with the white furniture on the porch (among other things).

    Happy Friday from Pittsburgh!

  11. mariela says

    Love your tips Sherry! How about winter clothes? Do you usually shop the same stores for her? I am expecting my first, so a lot of baby/kid clothes are in my future :)

  12. says

    thanks for sharing your tips! for our 2 1/2 year old daughter, we usually shop at target, the osh kosh outlet and (thanks to you) old navy for her clothes.

    we usually try to stay under $10-12 for a complete outfit and i always buy one size up so that they start out a little big but she can wear them longer as she grows into them.

    you can literally get t-shirts for $2 and $3 (or less) at osh kosh’s outles clearance racks and target has the cutest/original designs. i like that old navy’s clothes seem very durable and well made.

    we also have a formula that i use for her everyday/ daycare clothes: each season, i start out buying solid colored bottoms in a few go-to colors (usually hot pink, turquoise, khaki, and denim). so for the summer it would be skorts and capri pants, and long pants for the fall/winter. target usually has the best selection/prices for these.

    then i buy patterned cotton shirts and tops that we can mix and match with the pants. so on any given day, we just grab a pair of bottoms and we can always find a color in her shirts to match them.

    during the winter, i buy long sleeved white shirts that she can wear underneath her short-sleeved shirts so we can still get some wear out of them.

    p.s. that beach house is gorgeous! i love the use of primary colors in the hallway and living room.