Updated on 08.27.14

Clothes Shopping for Frugal Families

Trent Hamm

Our Strategy

Clothes RackM by Kamal H. on Flickr!Over the last week or so, I’ve seen and heard a lot of parents grumbling about the exorbitant cost of buying school clothes for their kids for the upcoming year. A few parents are at least putting all of their eggs in the basket of the upcoming tax holiday on clothes in Iowa – and they’re quite proud of this, certain that they’re getting a better deal than everyone else.

Guess what? If you put in a little bit of time, you can get your kids plenty of clothes for just pennies on the dollar – and it’ll be exactly what they pick out, too. Even better, the same exact strategy works for your own clothes shopping – this is the way to get cheap clothes.

How the Strategy Works:

First step: ignore the labels and the signs

If you’re buying clothes for reasons other than the quality of the material and how they look on you, then don’t bother with these tactics. You’re not buying clothes for clothes’ sake – you’re buying clothes for the sticker on the sleeve or for some label-based self-esteem boost. If you’re buying a $500 pair of worn-out denim jeans that are identical to a $1 pair of worn-out denim jeans except for the tag on the back pocket, a clothes-shopping strategy like this isn’t going to work for you.

Or, better yet, I have some cool labels I’d love to sell to you.

Here’s the deal: the first big key to getting inexpensive clothes is to ignore who made it and where you bought it from. All that matters is how it looks on you and how durable it is. The company that produced it doesn’t matter. The store where you bought it doesn’t matter. All that matters is how well it does the job: does it look good on you and will it hold up reasonably well? That’s all that matters.

Second step: train the young

If you try to introduce a plan like this to a teenager who has become accustomed to sparkling new clothes every fall and needs to have only clothes bought at whatever the “cool” store is this year (Abercrombie and Fitch? Or is that “so 2007” now? I fail at keeping up with such things.).

Instead, start doing this strategy when they’re very young and they’re largely content with anything that matches just a few basic aesthetic choices. For example, my son is happy with any t-shirt or dress shirt that isn’t too tight around the neck, though he has a slight preference for t-shirts with basketballs on them. That means buying him clothes is about as easy as can be.

On the other hand, my niece can go through an entire clothes shop and say that nothing whatsoever meets her exacting standards. All along, she’s been raised on clothes shopping with J.C. Penney at the extreme low end (and who knows what at the high end). Today, she wouldn’t be caught dead in anything that doesn’t come out of a shopping bag from an appropriate store. Not cool. Nip that in the bud early, folks.

Third step: let them have a lot of control

If you want success in finding cheap clothes, let the kids themselves have some influence on the picks. Sure, I might wind up with several shirts that depict basketballs, but if they’re dirt cheap and coupled with other diverse purchases, who cares? Getting them involved means they’ll have a lot more joy in what you bring home, no matter where it came from.

Ready for the Strategy? Here Goes:

Start at the absolute lowest end store you can find in your area

This might mean a Goodwill shop, a yard sale, or a second hand clothes shop (even better: it might start with hand-me-downs or a clothes swap with a friend or a relative – use those opportunities before heading out to actually buy anything). This should be your first stop on any large clothes-buying excursion.

Remember, you don’t have to even buy a single thing in the shop. All you have to do is go in the door with an open mind and see if you can find anything that works for you. If you can’t, no big loss. If you stumble upon some items that fit and are in very good shape, you’re suddenly spending maybe 5-10% of what you would have spent elsewhere.

Keep moving up, one level at a time

After you’ve hit the local secondhand shops and yard sales, try some consignment shops. If you don’t find what you want there, go to low-end bulk clothes shops (like Frenchy’s) if they’re in your area. Keep going up a bit at a time in quality, buying whatever you see that fits your needs. Then, just finish off whatever you need to fill out the wardrobe at a normal retail outlet on a tax free holiday – ideally, you’ll have taken care of most of your needs.

This procedure lets you be as picky as you want

If you wander through a very low-end store and only find one item of acceptable clothing, so what? If you do it at several low-end stores, you have the foundation of a wardrobe for just pennies on the dollar, with only the supplemental items paid for at full price.

If you’re able to save $5 per item on average over twenty items per child and you have two children (as I do), you’ve just saved $200 – and you’ve probably found a few items for yourself – and you’ve taught the children how to be thrifty shoppers.

Sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday to me.

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  1. Dave says:

    A good pair of jeans from A&F, American Eagles, Express, etc, has been a popular item for a decade now. They are also more durable than what you get at Kohl’s and Boscov’s. 60 bucks for a pair of jeans you’ll wear 180 times isn’t really that bad. A month’s worth of the infamous ‘latte’ is a much worse investment. (Guilty but am paying all my bills, saving 8% of paycheck into 401k before match, maxing out Roth IRA, and making triple payments on my car loan, so i don’t feel too bad :p )

  2. Michelle says:

    Great point on teaching children/teenagers how to be frugal with their clothing. Parents today need to pull their teenagers back to reality and stop buying them $100 t-shirts, etc. Durability does not rely on the brand, nor does style. I have to $20 pair of jeans from target that I’ve wore roughly 400 times (twice a week for 4 years) and as long as the tag is cover by a belt I get TONS of compliments on them.
    And, if as commenter #1 suggests, jeans from A&F are so durable, than 2nd hand stores/yard sales are the perfect place to buy them.

    Also, I believe A&F/Hollister represent everything that is wrong with America’s youth, but I digress…

  3. Rae says:

    This is a great strategy! When we were small, my sister and I loved getting a big bag of hand-me-downs from our babysitter’s older children (it was much better than getting dragged around the mall). When we were in high school, we both thought it was cool to go to the dollar-a-pound clothing at the Garment District for vintage stuff. If we’d started out getting all the hip gear early on, I don’t think that would have been the case – instead, we each developed our own style. (I did acquire some clotheshorse tendencies to go along with my first real paying job, but by that time I was buying my own stuff, so it wasn’t my parents’ problem anymore.)

  4. Sophia says:

    What’s weirdest to me about the label hounds is when they will only buy the label in the store it’s “meant” to be in. We have tons of stores in Texas called Ross- don’t know how popular they are in other states- that are nothing but name brands, but they are often at 75% discounts- overstocked, “irregular” (though I’ve never found the fault in them) etc. As an example- brand new Levi’s can be had for as little as $7.99, yet people still go get the same jeans at Dillards for $40. I dont get it.

  5. Sophia says:

    Rae- Your story is identical to mine. I had to buy my own clothes starting from the age of 14, and I had to work to earn the money, so I quickly decided I was going to frequent the thrift stores, sew/alter my own clothes, and make that style “mine”. Instead of sulking about used clothes, I would purposefully buy the funky old lady dresses, the polyester 60’s shirts, etc. I “owned” it, so it didn’t bother me what people thought of it.

  6. Onaclov2000 says:

    I love going to Kohls at the right time and getting the jeans that are normally like 30-50 bucks for 7-10 bucks (in the back with the %80 off tags and whatnot), just gotta time it right, I usually buy 10 pairs at one shot then I’m good for the year.
    I found a hoodie from Sears for like $3 one time and it’s second only to the one I lucked out and found at a garage sale for like a buck.

    Another good thing to do is look when they’re changing the seasons in the store. They want to get rid of all their old stuff.

  7. TJP says:

    Your son is three isn’t he? A little easier to get him clothes I’d say. That being said I buy back to school clothes AFTER school starts. Also I have tow boys so I save the clothes from #1 to #2 the trouble I will have this year is my 12 1/2 year old 5’3″ 85lbs son who doesn’t fit into anything correctly. Seems slims stop at 12 and then you get the option of regular and husky. No hand me downs for him. So I will have to get Levi’s at retail online since they seem to be the only place I can find a 16 slim since the 14 is to short. I know they will still be to big in the waist. Once your kids have outgrown the pants or put a whole in the knee, cut them off and hem them into shorts. My trouble comes in the winter as they are snowboarding all winter and need good jackets but are in with kids who have more than one and all name brands. I do end up spending a fair amount (once they go on sale and I usually work a discount) but it is important to have good quality at times too.

  8. mgroves says:

    Thrift Stores are great to find cheap and unique clothing. If you’re worried about fashion, you can always claim the “vintage” look, and probably get away with it. Also, you can turnover your wardrobe more often, since it costs less.

    Additionally, some Thrift Stores have monthly clearance sales where you can really clean up for 50-75% off.

  9. TJP says:

    Oh also I tell my boys (the younger one LOVES clothes) they can spend X amount and it really does help them make better choices….like, those older sneakers Ihave at home are fine and I can fogo new shoes and buy more shirts, etc. My son (who was 8 when I started this) does very well with this method.

  10. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “Your son is three isn’t he? A little easier to get him clothes I’d say.”

    That’s kind of the point of the second tip. Right now, I’m adjusting him to the idea that shopping this way for clothes is the normal way to shop. That way, each time we shop for clothes, this is the expected and normal pattern, and it’s seen as very good to find a big bargain.

  11. VM says:

    *A quick comment*
    How about ebay? I just bought my son his FAVORITE pair of shorts (his old ones ripped) from a seller who offered free shipping and a discount – got them for $4.19 total – as compared to about $20 – yes, they were used, but he could not care less about that. Another bonus about ebay is that it comes right to your door….(no gas $) Some times you have to sit at the computer for a bit to find that great deal, but worth it in the end, I have to say! By the way, I also just made about $800 selling stuff on ebay I wasn’t wearing/using – maybe 20 or so hours of work – but again, well worth the time spent. You have to WANT savings to get savings – and the same goes for obtaining extra cash.

  12. Frugal Dad says:

    I’ve found some pretty good deals for myself on eBay. adding “NWT” to searches reveals a number of clothing items that still have the tags on, but are going for a fraction of the retail price. From the descriptions, many of these were items received as gifts, but for whatever reason could not be taken back to the store.

    My wife and I use Freecycle a lot. It is the lowest end store you will ever find. You would be amazed what people are giving away. And when it is your turn to recycle it back to someone else, it is SOOOOOO easy. Goto freecycle.org to join the group in your area.

    One caution…it takes a couple of days for them to approve you joining this free yahoo group. They are particular of people trying to abuse the system…

  14. KC says:

    I don’t have kids, but I have plenty of friends who do and I realize the time and money constraints. Wouldn’t it be easier to just go online to LL Bean, Land’s end, etc and just get a bunch of things (or a couple of things)? Their prices are reasonable – their quality is high (well it is with adult clothes – I find them very durable). And you save time, lots of time. You also save a few pennies on gas, taxes on most sites, and if you combine it with free shipping then you’d save there as well. Just a thought that might save more on time than money, but then again time is money sometimes.

    With used clothes, be sure to wash them in hot water first! Ask David Sedaris.

    I like the idea of budgeting for kids too. I go to the store with a set amount in mind too. “You have $200, buy anything you want.” I find I do better with that in mind and make wiser choices. I think some kids would, too. “Hmmm…one pair of $150 Jordan sneakers, or 3 shirts and 2 pairs of jeans????”

  15. Nicola says:

    I’m afraid that my debt has built up because of clothes I’ve bought on a store card. Not designer – just a good quality English label. I’ve a particular weakness for knitwear and some of the knitwear I’ve bought I’ve accidently shrunk in the washing machine before it’s even paid for.

    I am trying to tackle this. Thanks for the advice.

  16. Louise says:

    I agree with the strategy of starting at the low end stores and working up until you find something that works. Most clothing at Wal-Mart either doesn’t fit me right or is poorly made. But I found one skirt style that is perfect for my body and lifestyle, and bought several.

    All my basic plain colored t-shirts come from Target. A bit more expensive than Wal-Mart, but much higher quality.

    The only jeans that fit me come from the Gap. After hours of trying on less expensive ones at other stores, I am satisfied that I exhausted all the cheaper options. But, I still try cheaper ones when I see a new style/cut/brand. You never know!

  17. VM says:

    Wow – KC!
    I hope that $200 gets my child a whole lot more than 2 pairs of jeans and 3 shirts….at consignment stores and the like – you may just be blown away at what you can get for that amount. But then of course, you have to not be too label conscious to enjoy this way of life. I did find the other day a boatload of hanna andersson stuff for about 2-3 bucks apiece – and a stack of English ironstone ware for 6 – yes 6 – dollars. I guess savings to one means something totally different to another. I must be something close to a miser! You’d never know it by looking at what my kids wear – it really is do-able if you know where to go.

  18. reject says:

    After a certain age, children realize that clothing denotes a certain status. The obvious preemptive move is to build self-esteem so they can weather a storm of insults. The other half, which can still be useful to teenagers, is to find examples in popular culture where fashion sense doesn’t mandate brand names.

    Looking back, my fashion-related social difficulties in school stemmed mostly from my lack (and by proxy, my parents’ lack) of color coordination skills and basic clothing sense.

  19. Shevy says:

    As one of those folks who wrote about the high cost of school clothes and all the other things like backpack, lunchkit, etc. here’s a few of the things I’ll be doing.

    My daughter goes to kindergarten in September and this is the last year for the next dozen when she won’t be required to wear uniforms. She’s allowed to wear uniforms this year, but most of the kids will be wearing regular clothes, at least to start with.

    She already has several long-sleeved tshirts, including 3 or 4 white ones (all bought on sale at Baby Gap, Old Navy and Children’s Place over the last 6 to 8 months) and 3 or 4 pairs of tights (ditto) that still fit. She can wear all those to start with.

    Her skirts and jumper style dresses are all getting a bit short however. It’s too bad, because I got 4 skirts for her at Children’s Place several months ago for $7.50 each! I mean, she’s worn them day in and day out since then, but they’re great. They’ll go to her 3 year old niece (who is already wearing that size and will still wear skirts that show her knees) and eventually to her 1 year old niece.

    I’ll go cruise the sale racks at all the above mentioned stores and check out a nearby childrens consignment store for new skirts and jumper dresses, but if I don’t find what she needs at a good price by the time school starts I’ll buy her at least 2 at full price and then watch for sales in mid-September.

    When the time comes for actual uniforms, I’ll check out the used uniform sale (usually run once a year by the parents) but I may have to buy full price tunics to start with because she’s so tiny. The white tops she has already will be acceptable and I’ll gradually replace the tights with navy and black. They can wear white tights too but they’re almost impossible to keep clean.

    So, my big outlay will be for a backpack, lunchkit and two pairs of shoes (they’re required to have one pair that are worn exclusively indoors). I’m hoping Payless will have shoes that fit and a BOGO sale.

  20. cendare says:

    I think KC’s comment about saving time is excellent. That’s what I thought of after reading Trent’s post. “If you wander through a very low-end store and only find one item of acceptable clothing, so what?” Well, so then you’ve spent hours for little reward. I realize that if you look at a per-hour rate, the money you save would possibly be enough to make it worthwhile, but that assumes you have the hours to put into it in the first place.

  21. harmgb says:

    I figure I’m saving a bunch of bucks just
    by considering clothes shopping to be a
    loathsome chore rather than fun….Levis jeans,
    when the old ones are getting so ripped as to
    be ‘high fashion’ for the young, LoL. Hanes
    tightie whities and white socks from KMart, and
    when I absolutely HAVE to, some decent shirts
    and Dockers from Sears or LLBean. I don’t look
    like a street person, but I don’t spend a lot
    of time and money, either. Now why couldn’t I
    have had that attitude in high school? Come to
    think of it, I did, more often than not……

  22. kim says:

    I LOVE Goodwill and so do my kids! We go every Sunday afternoon. I get most of my kids clothes from the $1.99 racks. I bought their discount card for $10. It gives me 10% off everything for a year (25% on my birthday!). They also have one tag color on sale for 1/2 off each week (there is a different tag color each week for about a five week cycle). I find all kinds of great stuff there! Today I got a girls tank top, a NWT bathing suit for my daughter, and a brand new looking swearer from The Children’s Place. I like the labels. I have very well dressed kids for extremely little money. The nice thing about buying resale is that you get a good idea on how the item will stand up to wear. I also buy current books by popular authors for just a few cents. I read them and then bring them to my local book store for trade credit. I almost always get more in trade than I paid for the book. You couldn’t pay me to buy clothes at Walmart, but give me a Goodwill store any day!

  23. Robin says:

    Sure, it does take some time to do this, but it really can’t be that much more than if you buy things online. I mean, then you don’t even know if it will fit right? And then if it doesn’t you have to return it, probably to the store because shipping it out is expensive. And then you’re already in the higher-end store.
    What I think is even better (and more time efficient) if shopping for clothes before you need them. I’ve always hated the idea of “Back to School” shopping – who says that is when you need new cloths? Once I realized that my mom was only going to take me shopping once a year, I made the most of it and tried to raid her pocketbook, trying to anticipate things I would want or need far into the future.
    Instead, try making the Goodwill/Salvation Army/whatever your regular store. Stop by and wander in if you pass it, just to see what they have. When I was trying to build up my work wardrobe out of college, I stopped by the Goodwill store several times and eventually found things I knew I would use, and probably didn’t spend more than $15. I also got all of my sorority formals dresses in college from there – $5-10 each, and seriously, no one knew the difference.
    The problem with saying to kids “You have $200, do what you can with it” is that they’re almost guaranteed to use it ALL even if they don’t need the new things, or good get things for less. While its nice for them to see the value in getting more for less, its near the same as my mom taking me out shopping once a year and my wanting to make the most of it. If you tell they they have $200, they’ll spend it even if they could have gotten only what they needed for $50.

  24. L says:

    As someone who has no children, I still can’t help but think you are a little hopeful. Sure it’s working well now, when they are both under 5, will it still be as effective when they are 15? By then they may be sick of dad’s crazy trips round all the cheap stores before they get to the places they want to go.
    I think when they are older TJP’s idea of giving them $X and letting them spend it how they want might be the way to go.

  25. Jules says:

    I’m sorry to say but I actually do notice the quality of clothes from high-end stores. My trick to not spending a fortune? Simply to keep track of sales and not be afraid of the discount rack–I usually just stop by the store on my way to/from wherever I’m going, have a quick look around. Almost every store has an annual clearance sale, and if you can hold out until the very end, you’ll find things that are laughably priced–and yes, still fashionable, too! And the Gap Outlet, when they have sales, they have SALES. I bought a pair of nice pants there for $5–come to think of it, not a single item I’ve purchased from the Gap Outlet was over $10 (and that was for a pair of dead-sexy jeans–hey, these things matter to us ladies). Not as impressive as scoring a $2 find from the Salvation Army, but pretty decent, considering that it’s new.

  26. Jen says:

    Something you didn’t address is the reason why certain clothes are so cheap–it is often because they are made by slave labor in poor nations. This is something I struggle with as a bargain hunter and as someone with a social conscience; would I rather have the $5 t-shirt from Wal-mart made by an Indonesian child for working for pennies a day, or a $20 t-shirt from American Apparel made by a worker in Los Angeles earning a living wage? The $15 extra is worth it, I believe.

    That said, higher priced fancy labels don’t guarantee that the clothes are not made in sweatshops, either (nor do they guarantee a higher quality product). If this is something that’s important to you, you might have to do a little research before you go shopping.

  27. Rolltimer says:

    My clothes shopping strategy has always been to shop only the clearance racks at the end of the season. It helps that I’m a small-framed adult woman who can fit into a boy’s size 18 to 20 for t-shirts and shorts. I was brought up on hand-me-downs from my cousins and shorts and t-shirts from my brother. I thought it was cool to wear their clothes–gave me a connection to those I loved and looked up to.

  28. suzanne says:

    You may save time and gas by not going to the garage sales and thrift shops, but you will miss the opportunity to teach your children how to shop well…unless you can make them sit still next to you at the computer while you browse. You will also miss out on spending a leasurely Saturday morning with your kids, exploring your neighborhoods and just kicking around. Think of it as semi-free entertainment.

  29. mk says:

    When I shop at thrift store & discount store, I check color & style first (& price tag), then check the tag for brand. Interestingly, I tend to pick several brands I like and I own, so it’s easy to coordinate. When it comes to my teenage son, he is very picky, but with reason. Before buy any cloths (and his soft spot, sneakers), he compare couple of websites including ebay, check any sale/clearance,last pair, and web special discount (yes)…he won’t budge for brand, but he does everything in his power to bring the price to the point it’s same or less to generic brand. He wear those “finds” that no one knows how he got it. We spend lot of time before shop, and enjoy the process of shop the best for less.

  30. I’ve got four kids(ages 8, 7, 4, and 2) and I spend very little on their clothes(or on mine, for that matter). They wear hand-me-downs from relatives, clothes from freecycle, and clearance clothes(purchased at deep deep clearance prices…like 75% off or more, off season).

    As they get older, I plan to give them an alloted amount of money and help them learn to shop. If they want to drop 50% of the budget on a pair of jeans, I’ll let them, and they’ll soon see that it’s not the wisest choice, as it leaves you with little money for other things.

  31. TJP says:

    The hard part is the sudden growth spurt…like a two size change in shoe size when they need winter boots in Feb….you just can’t plan around that. when they are little it’s easy to pick up end of season deals and save them and you can still do that with shirts and what not but no longer can I do that with shoes and MAn do boys wear them out. For myself I shop outlet sales for work clothes. I can get some good use for summer clothes at the end of the season and wear them all over again next year. There seem to be a fair amount of consignment shops for woman so I can bring in the clothes I am tired of, get a credit and purchase new to me clothes. It is doable but the kids do get more expensive. Later maybe you can mention eyewear. I get glasses for my son and husband online for a FRACTION of the cost. can’t see spending $10’s on glasses for a 12 year old boy! Then again when your kids are in the awkward stage and maybe not so “cool” or popular you may find yourself willing to go that extra buck for something you might not have years before. It’s hard to say when you haven’t been there.

  32. Anthony says:

    I don’t see how spending $120 on 10 pairs of $12 jeans is more economical then spending $60 on 2 pairs of quality jeans. Also, you can get most clothes for a sweet deal in the off season. Soon I’ll be looking to get a couple T’s an a pair of shorts or two for next summer.

  33. nuveena says:

    You can find some pretty decent things at Goodwill. I found a cardi/shell combo that came from a pricey mail order catalog at Goodwill and I only paid $4 for it. It was in excellent condition.

    I shop Goodwill and I also shop the clearance racks, too. The secret is to be patient and keep looking. You will find some really good deals on some pretty nice stuff.

  34. Anthony, I think the best idea is to do like you said, and find $60 jeans when they’re marked down to $20 or less…then you get quality with the low price. It thrills me no end to find bargains like that.

  35. I’d recommend sewing–not because you want to sew every piece of your children’s wardrobes, but because it gives them a chance to develop their own sense of style.

    Knowing you can create whatever you want changes how you look at clothes shopping. Instead of asking, “What’s cool at the mall this season?” you ask, “What do I want to wear?” knowing that you can create anything. Also, you can scoop up some brand-name items with minor flaws or fit issues and fix them at home.

  36. deepali says:

    I shop with a conscience, so my clothes are expensive. I just buy less. I realize this doesn’t work as well with kids, but teaching them to take better care of things could help things last a bit longer too (though it won’t help as much with them outgrowing stuff). Goodwill, hand-me-downs, and clothing swaps are the frugal equivalent, I think (or making them yourself if you’re talented like that).

    But I’d cut out the whole low-end shopping part (between goodwill and a good fair trade company). I’d like to teach my kids to be frugal, but not at the expense of others kids in sweatshops. I’d also much rather teach my kids the value of reusing and recycling.

  37. Ryan McLean says:

    Ignoring the labels and the signs is important.
    But I just CAN’T ignore some of my designer labels because I LOVE THEM….
    I spend over $200 per pair of jeans I buy

  38. Amber says:

    I used to care about labels and think that quality only came from a high price-tag. Now I know that you can buy solid colors with good lines at any store-even walmart. I find more quality at goodwill then I do at Express lately (2 J Crew poplin shirts @ 2.00). I am in my early 20s, and I wonder why I was such a snob all those years in high school and some of college. It is better to focus on being a good person, getting educated, and contributing to our society more than wearing expensive clothing in all stages of life. Younger the better.

  39. momof4 says:

    My kids have had mostly hand me downs , garage sale, etc. Because of this, I do make a point of asking the kids if there is a specific item or two they’d like for school. For example my daughter really wanted a pair of crocs because they were all the rage at school. Her grandmother gave them to her for her birthday. This year she asked if she could have a pair of leggings to wear with a skort, because that’s what the girls were wearing. I have no problem with this because 95% of her clothes are used.

    For this upcoming school year my oldest (age 9) and I decided to track all of her school expenses for the year on a spread sheet (clothes, scouts, field trips, the occasional hot lunch etc). That will give us some data to work with as we plan our school budget for the next year. The goal is to be able to say, “this is your budget for the year, how would you like to spend it”, by the time she gets to jr high. I know there will be expenses that we don’t account for, but the intent is to teach her about making choices and using money wisely.

    Oh, and the $10 target jeans with the adjustable waist for skinny kids don’t last very long, 8 weeks at best in my house, and they don’t patch well. We’ve had better luck with higher priced jeans purchased used when we can find them, or new if needed.

  40. LC says:

    I think that the points made here about quality are good things to consider for someone who will be at a certain size for awhile. An adult getting a $60 pair of jeans that fits well is a good purchase since they will be worn often until they are worn out. For children, they will usually outgrow the clothes long before they are worn out, so spending $60 on a pair of jeans they can wear for one season doesn’t make as much sense.

  41. jm says:

    Iowa charges tax on clothing? How barbaric. In Pennsylvania there is no tax on food or clothing, except food that is prepared for you, like in a restaurant.

  42. Ann says:

    I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old. On a good day, we can make it to 2, MAYBE 3 stores before they are SICK OF IT–too tired, or hungry, or bored to shop anymore. Maybe you have amazingly patient and tolerant kids. If that’s the case, how about sending along some tips on achieving peaceful shopping trips with kids. So really, Trent, the biggest problem I see with your suggestions is TIME. It might end up taking me months to find what I need. And that doesn’t feel like it’s simplifying my life…. Luckily, my boys both wear mostly hand-me-downs from their cousins. And they are young enough not to care.

  43. Ryan says:

    I hope this works when your kids are teenagers, but I doubt that ignoring brands in high school is going to be realistic.

    I’m not saying that kids will get made fun of for not wearing AF/American Eagle/Hollister clothing, but wearing clothes from Goodwill won’t do them any favors. Sad, but true.

    I’d funnel more energy into getting good deals on name brands. American Eagle routinely mails out 15-25 percent off coupons and most of their jeans are less than $50.00. Abercrombie is always going to be pretty steep, but perhaps use their clothing for Christmas or birthday gifts.

  44. Leah says:

    I love this post! I’m always sad when people say that they refuse to go to thrift stores. Regarding Dave’s comment about $60 American Eagle jeans being a good deal . . . I get the exact same jeans for $5 at my local thrift store. Most of the time, the jeans I get look brand new or almost new. Since I only get 6-8 months of wear out of my jeans (I’m pretty tough on them), I get to wear these jeans for pennies per wear.

    Other recent great finds:

    * $3 Patagonia capilene shirt x2 (normally $30-45)
    * $3 Prana yoga top (normally $30ish)
    * jeans from Gap, AE, mossimo, etc for $5 or less each
    * lots of Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts that I resell on ebay to cover the cost of all the other great clothes I thrifted

    At this point, I probably buy 65% of my clothes in thrift stores. I have a hard time finding shorts and nice dresses in thrift stores (and I buy socks and underwear and such new), but jeans and shirts are simple to find.

  45. christina says:

    I *hate* shopping. Hate it. My version of hell is spending hours at Goodwill combing the racks for the *one* 50-cent piece of clothing that makes the cut. But your strategy of starting at Goodwill, and then working my way up the line of stores to build an acceptable wardrobe for the season has now replaced my original vision of hell– congratulations! :-)

    However, I do have two boys, aged 3 and 1. Fortunately, they are the youngest in a round of boys that were born among my group of friends since 2001, so I have lots and lots of hand-me-downs to pick through. I have yet to spend any significant amount of money on any clothing but shoes. But as the older boys get rougher on their clothes, I’ll have less and less to work with as time goes by, so I’ll have to get used combing the shops, I guess. *sigh*

  46. Em says:

    I think a lot of people who disparage thrift-store and Goodwill shopping have never actually shopped there. I have friends who have never stepped in the store but swear everything there, at the Dollar Store, and any other discount store is crap and low-quality.

    You find awesome, high-quality stuff at those stores. So what if it takes a little searching? You’re arguing your time is worth SO MUCH that spending $30 and three hours at a thrift store is more expensive than spending $250 and one hour at Abercrombie?

    Let’s be honest–the people who can make that argument are NOT the people who read personal finance blogs!

  47. Andre Kibbe says:

    I hope this works when your kids are teenagers, but I doubt that ignoring brands in high school is going to be realistic.I’d bet otherwise. I spent my elementary years in a couple of Catholic schools, and had to wear the same boring uniforms as all the other students. At the time, I thought it was fascist. By the time I was in a public high school and could choose my own clothes, I found other students’ obsession with name brands pretty nauseating. Being raised in a fashion-free environment early on made it obvious, even to a teenager, how unhealthy it was to try to compete with the teenage Joneses.

  48. sasha says:

    I think the main thing is to buy FEWER clothes overall. You really don’t need as many as you think, even for the kids. Buying cheap and buying ahead are two strategies I’ve tried but just ended up with too many clothes, or clothes that didn’t get worn much. Now I find that if I buy “just in time” and shop the sales and regular discounts I can avoid spending too much money and time and get closer to buying ONLY want the family will actually wear.

  49. M says:

    Growing up, we had a budget of $200 for school clothes (this is in the late 90’s). Once it was gone, it was gone. Mom would not give us a penny over that $200. I think it helped me with my finances today.

    My father would not let us go to the Thrift Stores at all. So, every year, I got my 3-4 pairs of pants from K-Mart/Hills, and then would go to the mall and get shirts that were on clearance from the brand name clothing stores. The key was to keep clothes for many years so that you always had something to wear.

    Today, I found a great Thrift Store that I discounts items 50% depending on the color tag. On Mondays, the color tag shown is $0.50/piece.
    I go into work for a week with new tops. People think I spend a ton. Little do they know that most times, I spent less than $10 for whole week and a half worth of “new clothes.”

    Oh! One last thing – buy classics (not ones with any type of gems or ripped in certain spots). Black, Grey, Lt. Grey, Khaki, Jeans. I wear the same pants over and over again, and mix-and-match with the dozens of shirts I’ve bought from the Thrift Store over the years.

  50. jan says:

    Interesting to hear about clothes shopping from a guy with two very small kids. I agree with your premise about not caring about labels etc but I do think that time will tell if you can keep your kids from the “cultural wants”.

  51. Jen says:

    When I lived in Houston I used to love shopping at a resale store called Buffalo exchange … everything there was still in good shape and reasonably stylish, definitely some good “labels” available. I bought lots of great jeans that were originally $40-$80 for $10-$18 (still not as cheap as a thrift store but everything was overall in better shape and more attractive to me). The biggest benefit to buying pre-worn jeans was that they’d already shrunk in the wash as much as they’re going to … no more washing them once and having them be 1/2″ too short!!

  52. Missy says:

    I appreciate all the info you share with us. I think you hit the nail on the head as in start good habits early even with shopping. (Set limits, don’t give in to whining, if name brands beome important let your kids pay the difference,etc) Your children are young and so you have not encountered some issues but you have a great plan and are off to a great start. I don’t dismiss your ideas because your children are young, folks with good habits started somewhere. When my kids were little I always got them water (or milk) even when soda was free because I wanted it to be a good habit and now mine are older and it paid off, they still like water and usually order it. Of course when mine were not 3 yet, I had folks that said that won’t last forever, etc. I didn’t expect them to drink water or milk only forever but I was trying to elminate that water is second best idea. And it worked!

  53. Mary Beth says:

    I have four kids and have always been pretty frugal with their clothing purchases. They have all worn tons of hand-me-downs from friends and neighbors. In fact, just this weekend I cleaned the youngest’s closet. She is the youngest of three girls. I removed a dress that we had gotten from a neighbor for my oldest, which had been worn by the neighbor’s two daughters. It went thru her two, my three girls and still looks good enough to pass on to another neighbor for her youngest as a play/everyday summer dress. I have found that if they have plenty to wear and some say in what they get to wear, mine at least are not really label conscious. My oldest two daughters are now 17 and 14. They do like to have some of the American Eagle, Hollister etc. but it is limited, they pay for much themselves and they either buy it off the clearance rack or at Ross or Marshalls (both of whom get American Eagle, Hollister, etc. ). In fact, my oldest laughs at the girls in her school who dress in all “big label” clothes all the time. She says on any day several are all wearing the same shirt, shorts etc. and then they get upset that someone else is wearing what they are. I definitely think kids take their cues from their parents. If you raise them to think that “labels” are not the be all and end all, that is what they will grow up believing.

  54. Carmen says:

    I have to echo the comments about FREE. If you go to a school with a uniform, you can surely find someone in the grades above willing to give away or sell at a discount used uniform clothes. Otherwise accepting hand-me-downs from family and friends as well as Freecycle is a great way to get a nice wardrobe for free. You can often get nicer brands that way than you could otherwise budget for…

  55. JE says:

    A lot of good input. Here’s something that works well if you live in a larger metro area: find the Goodwill, Salvation Army, and yard sales in or closest to the expensive neighborhoods. My kids wear mostly high quality clothing, but I’ve never set foot inside a Children’s Place or Baby Gap store – I just know where to get the exact same clothing secondhand for next to nothing from my wallet.

  56. Shymom says:

    I am always amazed at the families that go out and buy new wardrobes for their kids just because school is starting back. Didn’t they have something to wear during summer vacation? Surely everything they own isn’t in tatters. I let the kids get one new outfit to start the year and then we fill in the pieces as needed.

  57. Tyler K says:

    Clothing, like many other consumer goods, has a serious gap in between “cheap” and “quality” where you’re throwing your money out the window. This is where the Abercrombie, American Eagle, Gap, and Express types of stores live. High on marketing and image, low on quality. However, once you move up beyond those stores, you start once again getting what you pay for.

    Personally, I make my clothing decisions on a case-by-case basis.

    I’m much happier getting in on bulk-priced plain t-shirts (American Apparel for example) than paying $50 per for some high end “designer” t’s (though I have a couple and am happy with them).

    However, jeans are an area where I’m just not willing to settle. I’ve never been happy with cheap denim, though I own a pair of 501’s I kick around town in. Again, you get what you pay for. Though the Levi’s are a classic, the quality difference in the fabric and the cut is really apparent.

    Not to say you can’t bargain shop. Some of my higher-end “designer” stuff comes from stores like TJ Maxx, usually at a hefty markdown.

    Basically what it boils down to is to consciously buy either really cheap, disposable clothing, or go straight for quality and look for bargains. Don’t get stuck spending money on clothes from Abercrombie which, quality-wise, are not worth any more than what you’d get at Target.

    (By the way: some stores, Express and Gap come to mind, occasionally have RIDICULOUS sales where you can get clothing items well below Target/Walmart prices. In that case it’s definitely worthwhile, but you have to know when to go and what to look for.)

  58. susan says:

    I always shop at the Salvation Army store near me. I live on Long Island and the stuff that people “cast away” is amazing. I have a pair of Seven for All Mankind jeans that I got for $10. I knew nothing about the name when I bought them, but they were well made jeans in my size and they fit terrifically. My son has 3 pairs of A&F jeans that I got for between $5 and $8 each. Not only is it more frugal to shop there (for everything but undergarmets, pajamas & socks), it’s also more ecologically minded – reduce, reuse, recycle. :)

    PS – I picked up 2 great Old Navy shirts for myself last week for 1/2 off at SA – $1.99 was the “sticker” price – I love them and they may just become my new favorite shirts. :)

  59. Sandy Fleming says:

    I raised my son and daughter using advice from The Tightwad Gazette. My first strategy was to purchase as much of their clothing as I could at garage sales. Some years depending on their growth rates and what was available I wasn’t 100% successful with used clothing. One time I found my daughter who was very tall and very thin a whole wardrobe in brand new condition for $18.00. Maybe 30 pieces in all including very dressey dresses and Jackets,slacks and tops. The young woman had gained weight and was selling everything. No one else had wanted these size 0 and size 1 tall clothing, so I bought it all. Really cute, trendy clothing in Brand new condition. My daughter wore some of those clothes for years. The second strategy was to let them pick out one outfit to wear the first day of school from the department stores summer clearance racks. We live in the desert and it is still very hot when school starts so that Fall clothing can’t be worn until early November anyways. Later when the fall clothes went on deep discount between Halloween and Thanksgiving we would fill in what they would need for cold weather. At this point I also let them pick out a nice complete outfit or two from the department stores sales or clearance racks so that they would have nice outfits to wear during the holidays. These strategies worked really well. When they were teenagers and they wanted the designer labels we were lucky enough to have Ross and Marshalls. Also when they wanted designer label shoes or other items that were not in our budget, I told them your budget for sneakers is $25.00…if you want any shoes that cost more then that you will need to pay the difference yourself. My son did that with a backpack and a pair of shoes one time. The quality didn’t match the price and he never was willing to part with his money again until he had a good job. Now they are adults and they spend their own money. Neither one shops garage sales or thrift stores. My daughter buys 95% of her clothing at Ross or Marshall’s and my son shops Outlet Malls.

  60. I second the suggestion to shop Goodwill or ARC or whatever in nice neighborhoods … we buy quality clothing (from Gap to Hanna Andersson to American Apparel) for $2 an item for my daughter — most of her nicest clothes are from Goodwill. Buying lots on eBay is another good strategy, especially for expensive items like pajamas ($22 for something a kid will sleep in? Come ON!). I figure at least reusing something is better than a new sweatshop-made garment.

    And we frequent a kids’ consignment shop in our area — both to sell our used items and buy clothes in a bigger size. Between the recycling factor, the checks they send me and store credits, our outlays are very low and guilt-free — and consignment is fantastic for things like soccer cleats that might only be worn 20 times before they are outgrown!

  61. Larkellen says:

    My youngest child is 9 1/2 and a few weeks ago my husband took him shopping at a store for a pair of tennis shoes. They were the first pair of new shoes the kid had ever had. I get probably 90% of the kids clothes at garage sales and then I move up to consignment/thrift stores. Last stop the Mall. My kids wear all the designer labels they want by shopping garage sales. This weekend we bought 13 designer t shirts at a garage sale for my teen daughter and niece for $1.00 each. At 14 we started giving our daughter a $200 per year clothing budget. She quickly learned that did not go far in the mall but she stays quite well dressed using the methods she learned from Mom!

  62. April says:

    I’ve never bought anything from JC Penney that fit well or lasted. Yes, I’ve tried more than once. The stuff always gets tossed because it doesn’t hold up. Meanwhile, I have a pair of boots I bought eight years ago for $200, and I wear the heck out of them every, single winter.

    I get that it’s different with kids, who are going to outgrow their clothes. For adults, though, I like the strategy of owning less, but owning quality. Extra points for getting the good stuff on sale, though, which I’m getting much better at doing.

  63. D.B. says:

    FYI – an alternative to thrift stores for family t-shirts – You can get new cotton t-shirts for the whole family at craft stores like Michaels, A.C. Moore, and Hobby Lobby. They frequently put them on sale for 4 for $10. The shirts come in all colors and are very durable (usually Hanes or another good brand). You can also find online coupons to use at http://www.wow-coupons.com .


  64. pam munro says:

    The children need to be taught how the market workd vis a vis style. And also learn that really stylish people mix everything UP.

    The irony for me is that all my designer labels come from thrift shops! I just got a Nicole Miller sequined tank for $4 at Good will!

    There should be a per-wearing cost ratio. If you wear your more expensive jeans, etc. constantly, it will even out the expense. But I still think designer denim is way over-priced for me and that you pay a LOT more for just the label. Try sale racks and places like Ross.

    There is a very good article in the L.A. Times (Sun. 7/20 in the Business Sec.) about buying for back-to-school – Vintage is in STYLE. (Should be on latimes.com)

    Also go to any wholesale marts near you. My sister got weaned off labels when my mother took her to the garment district in NYC, and she discovered how much MORE she could get there for the same $. (And we have one in L.A., too.) Or seek out places like Suzy’s Deals or similarly low-priced stores for gleaning from garment district stock.

  65. Mubongo says:

    One thing I do to get FREE brand name clothing is volunteer at a local charity that collects career clothes to give to women who are entering/re-entering the work force (from prisons, shelters, abusive relationships, etc). Every other Saturday, I spend four hours taking in donations and helping to sort through clothing, shoes, and purses. In return for my time, I am allowed to take home one garment free. Each additional garment can be purchased for a very small fee that helps the charity’s operating budget. Since the organization is in a posh area of the city, there is an abundance of quality, designer label clothing available. I’m not sure if all such charities have a similar policy, but this type of orgnization can be found in many cities. It might be worth looking into in your area.

    I also sew. I took a $65 class on alterations so I can sometimes take advantage of a great deal on a garment that is not quite the right size.

  66. BonzoGal says:

    @L,comment #24: “As someone who has no children, I still can’t help but think you are a little hopeful. Sure it’s working well now, when they are both under 5, will it still be as effective when they are 15?”

    Amy “Tightwad Gazette” Dacyzyn said she had a little trouble like that when one of her daughters became a teen- so she told that daughter what her clothing budget was and that she could make up the difference with her own money. The daughter bought a couple of higher-priced items with her own money and wasn’t all that thrilled with them. Amy used the same strategy for junk food- the kids could buy them with their own money, which they quickly realized wasn’t a worthwhile way to spend.

    I find clothes that I couldn’t otherwise afford at thrift shops in upscale towns. I have some really nice wool slacks that were tailor made, and they cost me $8. Even if nine times out of ten I don’t find anything, that tenth time can garner you something REALLY nice! Then I supplement my wardrobe with more expensive pieces (quality leather belts, shoes, etc.)

  67. Kate says:

    I’m not sure if this would work anymore with today’s fashions but I always bought my children’s pants big around the waist and ran a piece of wide elastic through the back section of the waistband (clip the waistband on the inside on both sides and pull the elastic through) and tacked it. As they grew I would clip the stitching, pull out the elastic and whip stitch the opening closed. If you tack the elastic neatly no one can tell that the elastic isn’t supposed to be there.

    As far as the niece and her wants go–many girls go through this. My daughter went through a stage where she wouldn’t even look at a clearance rack. Because she only had a limited amount of money to spend she got less clothes than she would have if she had spent more wisely. She’s older now and the clearance racks are the first place she heads.

    The reader’s comment about just buying less is very true. I think it is also important to be careful with hand-me-downs. If kids have a huge wardrobe of hand-me-downs they form the idea that they should have lots and lots of clothes to choose from–they don’t make the connection that the clothes were free.

  68. Catherine says:

    I get a lot of mileage out of the 80% off racks at JCPennys and Kohl’s.

  69. Sally says:

    I have a 17 yr old girl and 14 yr old boy. When they are adults – they can try their hand at what works for them. Right now I teach them quality vs. quantity and never pay full price. However those that think that kids can get through the teenage years withOUT any “designer” duds, American Eagle, Holister, etc. – are just fooling themselves. They do require some of that – it doesn’t have to be everything they own. But unless you want your kid to be teased, taunted or just plain left out – then my advice is to judiciously purchase some label stuff.

  70. DivaJean says:

    I’ve posted on this before but it bears repeating. Don’t be afraid to trade outgrown clothes with other families. We have an elaborate co-op of families that circulates kids clothes. The only rule in our group is no selling off anything- if it comes down that a certain size/gender combination is not needed, the clothes go to charity (and no getting a tax slip for it either!). If parents are willing to sacrifice little space in their home, more can be squirreled away to plan for growth of the kids. We currently have the next 2 sizes up for each of our kids squirreled away. This makes it convenient to have clothes ready should growth spurts happen. My son grew 3 inches over the winter and needed pants! All we had to do was find the bin of clothes.

    What happens every once in a while is that we find certain items lacking. Toddler shirts never last and need to be replenished in the trading. We go the route many others here do- working up from least expensive (thrift store, garage sale) on up. We find that we’ll mostly end up getting basics to fill in the gaps- plain t shirts, underwear, socks.

    There are some families in the group that don’t want to trade used shoes. We’ve never had problems with them. Kids grow out of them faster than anything- sometimes there is little detectable wear on the dress shoes especially.

  71. Leah says:

    A lot of the comments here are comparing the two extremes: $.50 thrift store jeans vs $250 jeans, as if there’s no in-between. Like a few people have already said, spending hours in a thrift store to find that one great score just simply isn’t worth it to me – but neither are the absurd prices on the designer jeans. There is a middle ground that people seem to be overlooking.

    Shopping sales at stores like Gap will get you good quality for decent prices. 40-50 dollars for a pair of jeans that I will wear multiple times a week for at least a year (probably more) is definitely worth it to me.

  72. Diane says:

    You have to be very careful about where you save money after your kids enter school. My parents had very little money when I was growing up so mom made my clothes or I wore hand-me-downs from neighbors. I always knew I looked different and I always felt poor. With my own kids who are now in their 20s, we shopped sales…no used clothes and no garage sales after they entered school. We saved and bought special items for special events…dances, proms, etc. I know how it feels to never look “right” and it’s hard on a kid. Also, we learned to always buy new Jansport backpacks. They cost more for a reason…they last.

  73. Diane says:

    One more thing..because this topic is very important to me. In my “kid brain” looking different and feeling poor also meant “not smart”. Until the 5th grade I did not feel that I was as smart as the other kids in class and not someone they would want to be friends with. I NEVER told my parents any of this including how I felt about my clothes. So, don’t think that because you kid goes along with your garage sale shopping ideas, that it is actually “ok” in their psyche. This may not make sense to adult minds, but after working for years in grade schools I know, kids need to look like other kids look. Spend a little more of your budget to make your kids “feel” good in their clothes.

  74. Susan McGEHEE says:

    I suggest the opposite strategy. Start at the top: Saks, especially the Oxxford event, Nordstrom’s then ratchet down to Dillard’s. This was our approach with our soon -to- graduate DU son. Start with great customer service, reasonable quality so the young person will have a standard with which to compare the bargain stuff.

    Another strategy with my college student: he prepared a budget for his clothing allowance. I said fine, here’s the check; if you bring it in under budget you keep the difference. That was sufficient motivation for him to shop carefully … very carefully.

    Teach quality first, value secondly and then getting a deal.

  75. mk says:

    Agree with #71 “Quality first, then value and find a deal”-it teach a valuable lesson how market works for and against your wallet, so make the best of your money. Best defense to battle with “image marketing” for teenage and beyond is savvy shopping habit, buy select few that you really LOVE will much gratifying option for them than buy many substitutes. They are building who they are, and clothing is too big of the deal to disregard. How to cope and stretch $$$ to look good isn’t that evil, rather essential skill today.

  76. Robin says:

    I know you can look good without designer clothes. You can go to school wearing things that fit, without rips or holes, and without looking like a slob. These are good things.

    This does not and should NEVER mean propagating the society that we have created in schools which enforces that wearing the “right” clothes makes you a good or worthwhile person. Many people are seriously overestimating the amount of pressure kids put on labels. Yes, it exists. I didn’t graduate that long ago (4 years now, not a lifetime by any means). I remember well that wearing the wrong clothes was a social taboo. BUT so was playing the wrong sport, the wrong instrument, being too skinny, too fat, having hair that was too short or too long, having tube socks instead of ankle socks, not having a television in your room… the list can and will always go on and on. I know that everyone wants the best for their kids, but the best doesn’t mean dressing them to keep up with the Jones’. I means (in my opinion) treating them right, treating them to respect one another and themselves, and and treating them how to act like a well-put together member of society. I have no mercy in my mind for people who complain that their kids will get teased in the wrong clothes. Sure they will. They’ll get teased for everything, kids are stupid like that. Seriously, your kid will live. I did. I am no worse a person because I didn’t step foot into an Abercromie and whatever until I was well out on my own and able to laugh at how much their ratty old crap costs. And your kids will be all the better for it, because they’ll know there is more to life than clothes, looks, being popular, and making friends with the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

    Just don’t stress over their clothes. Stress over something else, like their grades or the amount of TV they watch, or what they’re really going when they tell you they’re going to the library with their friends. There are far, far, far more important things to spend your time on with your kids.

  77. Sally says:

    I have no mercy in my mind for people who complain that their kids will get teased in the wrong clothes. Sure they will. They’ll get teased for everything, kids are stupid like that.

    Robin – did you read Diane’s two comments? I am assuming that you don’t have children? Part of being a parent is compassion and empathy. Not acknowledging the reality of teenagers/fitting in w/clothing, etc is cruel. A teen is a different breed and it’s unfair to put your lofty adult ideals on them. Teach and guide – but all with an understanding of their perceptions and their “reality”

  78. Krista says:

    To TJP about finding slims for a boy; girls Levi’s have slimmer waist and longer legs and look just like the boys. Slip a pair in for him to try on and see how it works. This is how we did my tall, skinny cousin. He never knew.

    About designer clothes, I was raised on designer clothes until I was about 8 or 9. Then my parents lost everything. I was spoiled and had always gotten what I wanted and still expected it. Then they had to tell me “No”. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t any less of a person in lower end clothes. I believed that the clothes were what made me who I was. As a very sociable teenager in Wal-Mart clothes, I was very confident and knew how to use accessories. I turned out to be very involved in many activities and was never picked on. My mother taught me how to care for what was inside and people didn’t critize the outside . Train your child about finances from day one and teach them to have a good heart; then the clothes won’t matter. By the way, my teenagers have no problem wearing bargain clothes. They know if they find a rack with 75% off, they can probably get anything they want off of it. About the teasing, the teenager who teases will always find someone to tease about something. It is the same as a bully. The schools with uniforms, children are being teased about the brand of their underwear. When you ask your teenager if they’re afraid of being teased about their clothes, also ask them “Am I setting you up to tease someone else about their clothes?”

  79. Anni says:

    Lately my teens have been getting a lot of of their clothes at Plato’s Closet, a trendy resale shop that is geared mainly toward teens. We have found AE jeans for around $12-15. By signing up for their email newsletter, we often receive advance notice of specials and coupons that yield additional savings. Although my personal strategy involves The Salvation Army, Goodwill, and seasonal sales, this does always work well for the teen years. I have two daughters who scour sales for most of their clothing, checking out the sale racks in Penney’s, Maurice’s, AE, and Aeropostale, filling in where necessary with items from Plato’s. The third daughter prefers AE, and is more than willing to spend hours searching Plato’s for what she wants. I always find it somewhat amusing that despite their dislike of Goodwill and TSA, my favorite shirts often disappear when I am not looking. My son, an engineer, often comes home and stocks up at The Salvation Army, preferring to shop there to the more expensive Goodwill.

  80. Kris says:

    I’m a hard size to fit. Sometimes I can spend the whole day shopping and not find something that fits. So when I do find something, I buy it, whether it’s $1 (which thrills me) or $200 (which makes me cringe, but I do it anyway).

  81. PiFreak says:

    I’m 17, and I’ve been trained like you said. My friends don’t get it, but I do. I generally get great deals on everything, and what I really love doing is checking when I get high-end stuff at low-end stores, and seeing how much I saved. My 2007 prom dress was a 2006 style, still on sale, discounted from $156 to $147 on the website, I picked it out at a thrift store for $15, on a half price day, for $7.50. I’d say that’s a good deal! Then just recently, at a thrift store, I found a victorias secret bra in my size for $1. No stains, tears, or even discoloration, just a few wrinkles from poor folding (a quick scrub got them out)… it was $45 from victorias secret, and could ONLY be bought online (thus incurring shipping costs). It’s fun to see how much I save. (Won’t buy undies or shoes from thrift stores though, too expensive and too used, and usually won’t buy bras)

  82. Anna says:

    I shop both Goodwill/2nd hand as well as clearance racks at regular stores. My kids are completely fine with it and my 12 year old daughter actually enjoys finding these great deals along with me. I was skeptical for awhile. i did not want her to be embarrassed or grow up wishing her Mom would stop trying to be so thrifty. But she actually points out awesome bargains to me, compares prices, etc. all on her own. I can tell she has it in her, too. ;-) We make a list of what she needs about 3 times per year. We first hit Goodwill and our favorite thrift store. Then, we go to places such as Target and JCPenney to hit the clearance racks. JCPenney also has some awesome sales throughout the year. I sell most of her old clothing that is in super shape online and make money that way. The only thing we buy brand new(clothes wise) are shoes, and we buy them at an outlet place. I have explained to her the benefits of smart buying, saving, etc. I am upfront with her about the cost of college, but also how important college is. My husband and I make a very good living and still choose to spend our money somewhat frugally. The occasional splurge every now and then is fine(everything in moderation), but it’s nice to see our efforts in teaching money management skills to our kids is paying off. Literally.

  83. Leah says:

    just following up on my comment from last year. Hit a thrift store today and found a super cute dress for $6. I’m foreseeing lots of wear out of this thing! I’ll be changing jobs soon and need to start dressing nicer, so the thrift store search is now on for blazers and work clothes. A little harder, but you can’t beat the return :-)

  84. deRuyiter says:

    There’s loads of great quality, designer stuff being sold for pennies on the dollar at yard sales in UPSCALE neighborhoods. I buy only yard sale, thrift store and ebay clothing, AND OCCASIONALLY HAVE THINGS TAILORED FOR A PERFECT FIT. Mostly you can buy lovely, quality wool sweaters for $2./ $5., often with the dry cleaners tag or NWT which are ready to wear. Ditto for scarves, tee shirts (25 cents to a dollar), dresses, blouses, suits, most of which can be worn as is. You need to get out and look with an open mind. Buying resale it doesn’t matter where it was made, or who made it, because the money for the item is going to the seller, not to some big business or foreign company. Resale is great for the environment, and the occasional tailoring job is good for my tailor! Looking stylish and elegant on a small budget is great too! As for Ann #42, ANY SHOPPING TRIP WITH A ONE AND A THREE YEAR OLD IS GOING TO BE TOUGH. WHY NOT LEAVE THEM WITH dAD AND YOU SHOP THE YARD SALES WITH A LIST OF SIZES YOU NEED AND A TAPE MEASURE?

  85. kristine says:

    Tip: Shop at the Goodwill or Salvation Army store in the most upscale area you can get to. It makes a big difference in what level of clothing and shoes you will find. Not so much the other stuff.

  86. Evelyn says:

    I have four kids 9, 6, and twin boys 16 months. I work at a retail store and get 50% off mine and my kids clothes. Sometimes I can score $40 dresses for $3.

    I tend to buy more then I need but when the season is over I go back and sale on Craigslist or the local annual consignment sale. Because my clothes are higher quality I can usually sell that dress that I paid $3 for for $10.
    I then take all the money I make and buy new clothes for the kids. My clothing budget for the kids therefore doesn’t come out of my budget but out of the money I have made on their clothes.

    I also make sure that I stain treat all of my clothing. Clothes that are well taking care of sell better.

  87. Louise says:

    My son was known, from pre-school thru 4th grade, for having the cutest sweaters. Many of these were high-end designer sweaters, all of them were worn only a few times, then sold at consignment stores or on E-bay. These were items given by an adoring relative, saved for “special occasions,” then outgrown before they could be worn more than a handful of times. We even got him a beautiful, barely worn suede jacket for around $6.00! Their loss was our gain, as my son wore these things for “every-day” and had, by far, the chicest wardrobe of any boy his age.

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