Living Well on Less-Saving money on clothes for the whole family

Welcome back to another month of tips and tricks on how to live well on less.

In case you missed the previous posts you can find them here:
15 tips to save money on your food bill
saving money on your cell phone
how to survive without cable
This month, our focus is on how to save money on clothing.
Unless you are the Emperor, we all wear clothes.
Americans spend around $1700 a year per person on clothes.
Clothes can be expensive, even if you are shopping on sale.
So today, I am going to show you how you can save thousands of dollars each year on clothes for your family, but still look like a million bucks!  We all want to be cheap, but not look cheap am I right?!

As a family of five, we spend around $1000 a year on clothing {including shoes, underwear, socks, coats}.
That's nearly half of what 1 American spends on clothing!
And I must say, we dress well.
On-trend, and in name brands.
Several years ago, that number was half {we used to spend around $500 a year for all 5 of us}, but as my husbands pay has increased, in all areas of our life, we have gotten a little bit more lax and loosened the purse strings!
We are crazy, I know!
Here are a few of our tips.

1. Shop garage sales and consignment shops

If I had to guess, about 90% of our family's wardrobe comes from garage sales.
The other 10% comes from the sale rack and consignment shops.
I can't remember the last time I paid full price for anything!

Let's talk about garage sales first.
I have bought North Face jackets for the kids for $1
Complete ski coat and pants from Helly Hansen for $7
Enough Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, and American Eagle to make any teenager swoon.

I have dresses from Anthropologie with the tags still on them that I bought for $1
Jeans from Seven for all Mankind and Joes
I've gotten Toms shoes for $3 brand new in the box
Uggs for $3

I have an idea of what is current and in style, and I know what brands hold up.
I know we would spend more money on clothes if we shopped at Wal-Mart!
We actually dress better and save more money than we do if we bought Wal-Mart duds.

The one thing you can count on with kids is that they grow.
If I find an amazing deal at a garage sale in an item that is a few sizes too big, that's o.k.
I just tuck it away in a box in our garage and when they kids grow up in sizes, I get that box out.

It's like shopping, only better!

Recently, my youngest son grew out of his old clothes and moved up a size.
This is the piles of clothes and shoes I had in a box in the garage for him.

If you shop at garage sales, you will know that clothing is usually abundant at most sales.
Usually, you have to take the time to look and sort through to find the gems in the bunch.
I can usually tell with a quick browse through if a garage sale is worth sorting through all of their clothes.

If I pick up an XXXL shirt I will usually know that I can stop looking because they won't have our sizes.

If I find a size that I am looking for, but the clothes are well worn and not in a style that we wear, then I usually stop looking.

But if I find a size I am looking for, and a style or name brand that I like, then I usually take the time to dig through everything.

That is if the price is right!

Some people still haven't caught on that garage sales aren't the time to mark your jeans for $20.
I like to pay less than a dollar per item at a garage sale.

Usually, if you bundle and buy a lot, you can save a lot.
For instance, if each item is $1 and I have 35 items.  I will usually ask if they will take $30 for the bunch.

Most people will.

During the winter, we spend a bit more on clothes and shop at the stores more often.
Our first stop if we need anything though is usually the consignment shop.
Just this week, I bought a brand new North Face jacket for my teenager that retails for $175 for $40.
More than I would pay at a garage sale, but it's current, trendy and something he has wanted for a while.

I also got him some like new Nike shoes for $8.  The retail price is $180.
I'm finding that as my kids grow older, their clothing is getting more expensive.
Thankfully, I kept this in mind when they were younger.
The kids would probably get only 1 new thing a year.
The rest came from garage sales.
And I never paid more than $1 for anything that they wore.
This is helpful in more than one way.
Kids are messy.

They paint, they roll in the dirt, they spill.
If they messed up a shirt, that cost $30 I would probably have had a heart attack!
When it cost only a quarter, I could care less.
I remember doing co-op pre-school with one of the kids and I was art mom.
A little girl dressed to the nines in a coordinating outfit from head to toe was being reprimanded by her mom for getting her outfit messy.
She was 2.
She was adorable, but I can't imagine being angry with my child because they were being children.
Clothes are so less important than a child's feelings.
Now that my kids are getting older, they are more interested in particular brands.
Fitting in is important to tweens and teens and I totally understand that.
It's important for me to help accommodate this desire within a budget.
Most of the local consignment shops that I shop at carry the brands my kids are looking for at around 80% off the retail price.

Some of my favorite consignments shops for my son, husband and I are
Plato's Closet
Runway Fashion Exchange
Both stores pay cash for your old clothes, and both stores carry current styles.
We have a few local kids consignment shops that I frequent like
Heaven Sent
Kid to Kid
Other Mothers
One way I stretch our clothing budget is by selling off our old clothing.
All of the consignment shops I listed above, I have sold clothing to.
It's very easy to sell but does take some work on your part.
Some shops are pickier than others, and some will make you jump through hoops to just take your clothing in.
Once you know what they expect, it's not too hard.

Common expectations when you sell at a consignment shop (for kids and adults):

 bring in items that are less than 3 years old
bring in the current season (don't bring in a bathing suit in January)
adult clothing can usually be brought in year-round regardless of the season
items should be clean and stain-freeWhen I first started selling items, I would get discouraged if I would bring in a huge box full of clothes and they would only take a handful of items.

I quickly learned what each store was looking for and how they wanted it presented.
I take in the kids clothes in the fall and again in the spring and each time sell around $75 worth.
This may not sound like a lot of money, but usually, I have invested around $25 on their clothes at garage sales.  They wore the clothes, and then I am selling them after we are done using them.  So I typically make a $50 profit on my initial clothing investment.
If your child has a dress code at school be thankful!
When my son was at a school with a dress code, we saved so much money on clothing!

Here are a few ways to save on uniforms:

Garage sale in an area that has uniforms.
I could easily find khaki pants and polo shirts at garage sales for $1
Find out if your school has an exchange.
Most schools that have uniforms make a school sweatshirt an option.
Some schools allow students to trade in their old sweatshirt and get a new {to them} one for under $5.
If your school doesn't offer this option, try to start it on open house day.
Our family skis.  Having proper clothing for cold days hitting the slopes can get expensive.
We found a few ways to save money.

Buy offseason

you can usually stock up on good ski clothing at the end of the season.
This goes for bathing suits too.
Stores are constantly restocking for the upcoming season, think ahead and anticipate your needs.

Buy basics

I have three kids.  Two boys with a girl in between.
It's hard to pass down clothes when there is a gap in there, but if I stick to basic items, sometimes it makes it easier.

Those cute pink snowpants can't be passed down to her brother when she outgrows them.
If there are gender neutral items, I buy those instead.
My son and I have been known to share snow boots and snow pants!
This doesn't just go for clothes sharing, it also goes for stocking your closet.
Sure that pair of trendy mint skinny jeans are adorable, but my guess is, next year they won't be quite as cute.  You could spend thousands of dollars a year trying to keep up with the trends in fashion magazines, only to find that next year, those trends haven't held up.
If you really must buy that trendy item of the season, head to a discount store.
Target usually has good knock offs, or you can find discounted items at TJ Maxx or Marshalls.
$20 for a new trendy item in your wardrobe that you probably won't wear in a year, is much easier to swallow than $60!

Learn some skills

In the past few years, I have taught myself how to hem my jeans with the original hem, how to make my own skinny jeans and how to dye jeans to make them the color that I want.
Last week, I took in a sweater and a dress that was too big just by sewing a simple straight line on the seam.
I was always hesitant to "fix" my own clothes, but once I rationalized with myself that otherwise this shirt or pair of pants was going in the goodwill pile anyway, I might as well give it a shot.
I've been pleasantly surprised!

If you have to buy retail

make sure you shop the sale racks.
I haven't paid full price for any clothing item in...I honestly can't remember how long!
If I am at the mall, I don't even bother looking anywhere other than at the sale racks.
If I find something that I love that isn't on sale (or isn't as on sale as I would like), I make notes of what that item is.

For example, when I was pregnant I found a pair of Gap maternity jeans that I loved.
I tried them on at the store, knew what size I needed, wrote down all of the pertinent information, then came home and did a google search.  

I found the exact same pair of jeans on sale for $50 LESS than they were at the store.
I have found through the years that there is one brand of jeans {Hudson} that I love.
I don't even try to buy any other brands any more.
Problem is, Hudson jeans retail for around $175.

Ebay has been a great source to find my favorite jeans, usually for 85% off the retail price.
My husband has started doing ebay shopping for his favorite jeans as well.

Buy Quality Items

Just because you are shopping on a budget, doesn't mean you need to buy cheaply made clothing.
Like I said earlier, even though we shop for clothes on a Wal-Mart budget, doesn't mean we buy Wal-Mart clothing.

Let's be honest.  Poorly made clothing just doesn't hold up as well.  I hesitate to buy Old Navy and Aeropostale brands because in my experience, the fabric both stores use is sub par.  The clothing shrinks easily, it looks worn quickly and it doesn't hold up for lots of wears.  If you buy garage sale clothing, you notice these things.  Let's be honest, the clothing we wear gets worn.  It's been worn by the person we bought it from, sometimes even by the person before the person we bought it from.  Sometimes it's handed down to siblings, sometimes it's brought in to a consignment shop to be sold.  Our clothes get washed and worn a lot!  Having high quality items makes a difference.
Get on your favorite stores list

I get a lot of e-mails and am signed up on lots of lists.  When sales start, I'm usually the first person to know about it.  Just this morning, I got an e-mail from my son's favorite store telling me that their clearance items were an extra 40% off with free shipping.  Last week, I got a coupon from Gap for $10 off my purchase.  You usually don't have to read every e-mail (the subject line usually tells you all you need to know), but being on those lists helps keep you up to date on the latest sales. 
Those are just a few of my tips on how we save money on clothing.

Do you have any to add?
How does your family add up?


DownTheLaneWithDaisy said...

Your advice is so common sense and valuable. thanks for this article. Wow, it was just great!

Craftcherry said...

This is such a great post! I hate buying any item of clothing full price. My boys have always been easy. We get hand me downs from their older cousin and anything else we need we try to look for in clearance racks and the annual Rhea Lana consignment sales. We actually sold a large chunk one year and then shopped their half price sale. It was almost an even trade.

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Unknown said...

Wow! What a great list of tips and tricks.

I have recently started dropping in to our local Goodwill for the kids clothes. I have 3 boys, 3, 2, and 7 weeks and we go through clothes like nobodies business!

No one tells you that just because you have all boys that they will all fit into the same clothing! My oldest and middle child are built completely different. So what fit my oldest well, isn't working for my middle. Grrr...

I'd love it if you would stop by and share this post on F-It Fridays, a weekly blog link-up party I host!

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