Raising kids will cost the average Canadian family around $13,000 annually from the year they are born until the day they turn 18.
These costs tend to be higher during the years kids are in daycare or when they are enrolled in extracurriculars.
One consistent line item in a family budget is kid’s clothing. There is just no way around it. Kids are constantly changing and will outgrow or outplay their clothes before the end of almost every season.
But how do you know which clothes are worth spending a few extra dollars on?
Learn some savvy strategies on how to save money on your kid’s clothing ‒ and when to spend a little more in order to help stretch the lifespan on clothes in all the stages of your children’s lives.
Baby clothes: Easy come, easy go
When having your first baby, there is usually a lot of fanfare.
Your family and friends will want to throw you baby showers and gift you a lot of cute and expensive items. You will likely be the recipient of many adorable onesies and crib shoes. You might even have friends who give you all of their baby’s hand me downs. (Graciously accept it and pay it forward later.)
What you will find is that most second-hand baby clothes will be in great condition since infants and babies grow out of clothing so fast and may not have had much chance to wear them.
If you need to buy clothes for your baby, make sure to purchase one size up so they can wear it longer than just a month or two.
Consider shopping at consignment stores which are usually quite discerning and only accept clean items in great condition. You will often be able to buy clothes at a fraction of the price you see in stores. (On a side note, if you have no one to pass your baby’s outgrown clothes to, consider consigning them if they are still in great condition.)
The bottom line: Babies will not be wearing these clothes for a long time, so don’t invest too much money in them.
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From toddler to preschooler: Growing like weeds and messy as ever
This is the stage of discovery and imagination.
Toddlers are learning to walk, then run, and preschoolers are eating their favorite foods with gusto. As parents, it’s hard not to love this stage where their personalities really begin to shine through…
But this stage also comes with a lot of messes and loads of laundry.
When my son came home from preschool with new paintings – his clothes acting as a second canvas – I was glad I knew better than to spend too much money on his clothes.
Investing in clothing more cut out for picture day, than a game of tag, is fine if it is actually picture day. But don’t let that be their everyday wear.
For my busy boys, I normally dress them in thick cotton shirts that move easily and pants that have reinforced knees.
If pants have holes or are starting to wear down around the knees, sew a patch onto them. Ideally, use a tough fabric like denim or corduroy. Let your kids decide what colors they want when personalizing clothing.
The bottom line: Kids are meant to explore and use all their senses when learning, which is why it’s better to invest in clothes that are meant just for play.
When you know your kids will be doing a lot of painting or playing outside, send them with clothes that are more durable and that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.
Related: How To Shop At Garage Sales And Save
School age: Growth slows down while prices pick up
During the school years, the hand-me-downs from friends and family tend to slow down, as the pace at which kids grow begins to steady.
Additionally, the wear and tear of clothing increases meaning that fewer and fewer articles of clothing are donation worthy.
While you may not need to buy every-day kids clothes very often, you may see a need to buy more clothes for gym class, as well as sports equipment and uniforms for extracurriculars. This is where the strategy to shop clearance a year ahead will come in handy.
Buy second-hand for hobbies and interests
I was the kid who was involved in a million different extracurricular activities. The most expensive hobby I took up was skiing. For my brother, it was hockey.
My parents were dubious of how long these hobbies would stick, so they purchased almost every piece of our equipment second hand. Turns out their instincts were right. My brother’s foray into hockey didn’t last, while I ditched skiing to try snowboarding.
But when I realized snowboarding was a hobby I truly enjoyed, my parents encouraged me to buy next year’s set of snowboarding gear a size up with my hard-earned allowance at the final season clearance. I got to buy brand new equipment for much less.
It was a good lesson for me since I was the one who had to pay for it, and today, I still snowboard.
What’s worth the splurge?
I'm a huge proponent of buying second-hand or from the clearance rack, but…
There are just some articles of clothing that I'm willing to shell out a few extra dollars for – even at full price.
If the shoe fits
A good pair of running shoes is a necessity.
This is true of adults too, but especially for kids who are active and still developing.
If their feet are squished into a pair of shoes that puts pressure in all the wrong places as they play, it can cause long-term problems for their feet. Take your kids shopping at a reputable sporting goods store to get properly fitted for shoes.
If your kids have a growth spurt halfway through the school year, don’t delay getting a new pair of shoes if they need them. It just isn’t a good idea to have them wear ill-fitting shoes for extended periods of time.
Clothes for colder seasons
If you live in a city that has four distinct seasons, you will have to budget for a few extra items of clothing, such as:
- winter coats,
- boots, and
- clothes for corresponding winter accessories.
Invest in a properly insulated, waterproof winter jacket, as well as boots that can withstand temperatures as low as -20C.
Look for function over form when it comes to winter boots as these will take a beating in the snowy and salt-laden streets.
Also, let all winter accessories including hats, gloves and boots dry off completely between uses so there is less of a chance for mould and smells to linger.
Prices on fall clothing tend to be slightly higher at the end of summer due to the increase in demand...
But, once the crowds have died down in mid to late September, you may notice the prices starting to drop to make way for winter clothing.
Of course, do not hesitate picking up summer clearance items for next year if your child insists on hitting the malls for the back-to-school madness.
Buying a good-quality backpack that will withstand all the homework your kids bring home is a solid investment. Look for thick straps and reinforced zippers, as those are typically the first to go as the bag gets regular usage.
Final savvy shopping tips
When buying your kids’ clothes, be sure to follow these tips in order to save a bit more cash:
- Look for gender neutral items. Try to find colours and styles that could work for both boys and girls. It makes it easier to pass clothing and shoes down to another child, or to re-sell.
- Join online 'Buy and Sell' groups in your area. Many parents are part of Facebook groups or e-mail lists that feature items being sold or given away to people willing to pick up locally. Just search for "parent buy and sell" with your city name into Facebook or Google.
- Organize a clothing swap. Get some neighborhood moms and friends together to bring their children’s outgrown clothes to your home and swap items. Basically, it’s shopping for free and it’s also good for the environment.
- Shop from home and get cash rebates. Avoid crowded malls and limited stock, and buy your kids clothes online. If you shop through a cash-back site such as Ebates, then you can even get 1-15% back in cash rebates at no extra cost.
- Buy clothing that is versatile. For girls, a lot of leggings can be turned into capris as they get taller and a dress can be turned into a tunic if it is a style that is loose to begin with. For boys, buy their T-shirts loose and large, which can be worn layered on top of a long sleeve shirt until they grow big enough to wear the T-shirt on its own. Before purchasing a piece of clothing, ask yourself if it can be worn another way as your child grows.
How did we do?
Do you have any more tips when it comes to saving money on kids clothes? When do you find it best to splurge on clothing?
Tell us about your experience...