How to Save Money on Babies and Children by Buying Good Quality used Clothes

Raising a baby is an expensive undertaking, considering all the necessities parents must provide, but shopping at venues such as thrift stores and garage sales can reduce your costs considerably.  The choice to dress your infant in gently used clothing not only saves you money, it also helps the environment, and often funds local charities.  With a few common-sense tips, you will be ready to pick out outfits for your child at second-hand stores that are wonderfully affordable without sacrificing quality or style.

Start Early

Ideally, you will have the opportunity to start shopping for clothes early in your pregnancy, or perhaps even during the planning stage.  This allows plenty of time to get the best clothing for the best price, without feeling pressured to settle for less in order to have all the items by the delivery deadline.  While you are sure to find some great deals in your thrift shopping, the selection can be hit or miss, and you probably won’t successfully locate some hard-to-find items like socks or tiny pajamas in acceptable condition.  Leaving enough time to shop around will let you take advantage of the thrift store bargains you find; then you can fill in any gaps in the wardrobe by buying at traditional retail stores, and still have time to spare.

Make a List

It is helpful to stay organized by keeping a list of the baby clothes you plan to buy, and then checking off items as you get them.  Many baby books or parenting websites offer suggestions on the wardrobe essentials for your infant, but generally this will include sleepers or pajamas, blankets, socks, soft shoes, hats, and then tops and bottoms for daytime wear.  Keep the seasons in mind while making your list, so you know whether you will need long- or short-sleeved shirts, shorts or pants, or winter wear like coats and mittens, depending on the weather conditions of the time of year for which you are shopping.

Explore the Thrift Stores

In your area, you may have national chain thrift stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army, but you will probably also have a number of local stores that sell second-hand and discounted merchandise.  Many churches and smaller charities accept donations and then sell them through a thrift store for fundraising.  Pricing and selection can vary greatly, so plan on spending some time getting to know the policies and practices of the thrift shops near you.  Some stores may require payment in cash.  Many stores will have regular sales, such as offering half-price clothes on Wednesdays, or “fill-a-bag” sales that charge a set price of a few dollars for all the fabric goods you can stuff into a bag.  Some shops may have very few baby items for sale because of the neighborhood or clientele, while others will have an abundance of infant clothes.  Take the time to investigate the typical offerings at nearby thrift stores, and then return more often to the ones that offer more of what you need – and don’t forget to shop early on sale days for the best selection.

Compare Discounted Retail Prices

Baby clothing and accessories found on the clearance racks at retail stores can sometimes be cheaper than their thrift store counterparts.  Be sure to check your local stores for deals, because there’s no sense paying more at a thrift store for a used item than the cost of a brand new item.  Stores such as Target or Walmart regularly mark down their prices significantly, and even mall stores like Macys, Dillards, Sears and J.C. Penney can offer great discounts when you use a coupon and also buy from the clearance section.  Get a sense of the usual sale prices for the clothing items you plan to buy, and keep an eye out for discounts that make new clothes an even better bargain than shopping the thrift stores.

Be Choosy about Quality and Condition

When you locate the baby section of a certain second-hand shop, your search is just beginning.  Although you will probably see some pitiful-looking offerings that are threadbare or damaged while you are shopping in thrift stores, there is no need to sacrifice your standards.  With a little patience, you are sure to find gently-used clothing that is well-made from good-quality (soft and sturdy) fabric, and free of stains and heavy wear.  Depending on the donations they receive, thrift stores will sometimes have new-with-tags baby clothes that were outgrown before they were ever worn, and brand-name designer clothing in excellent condition.  Examine the clothing in good light, from all angles, to check for any flaws.  Before buying an otherwise attractive outfit, be sure to feel inside the garment to check for rough seams that could irritate a baby’s tender skin.  Good quality clothing will be designed and manufactured to ensure your little one is comfortable as well as fashionable. 

Be Flexible about Color and Pattern

To assemble an attractive wardrobe for your infant from thrift stores, it helps to have flexibility about factors other than the quality and condition of the clothes.  Focus on buying separate tops and bottoms that you can mix-and-match later, rather than trying to find complete matching outfits.  Solid-colored separates and basics like jeans will be the easiest to use in different combinations.  However, with the discounted prices of second-hand clothes, you can afford to take some risks by buying items in various colors and patterns, and then trying to find coordinating pieces later at another thrift or retail store.  Even if a few of the shirts or pants end up unmatched and unused, your overall savings will be worth it.

Buy Bigger Sizes Too

Keep in mind that babies grow quickly, and those adorably tiny outfits won’t fit for long.  Besides clothing for newborns, also look for clothing sized for 3 months, 6 months, and perhaps even larger, when you find good deals on them.  If you have the space to spare somewhere in your living area, you can save the most money on children’s clothes by setting up a storage system to hold larger-sized items until your infant grows into them.  Storage space can be provided by a dresser, or an area such as a closet, the basement, or under a bed which can be organized with boxes or bins labeled to sort the different sizes.  If you anticipate the inevitable growth spurts ahead of time and utilize your home’s storage capacity, you can take advantage of the opportunity when you find good quality thrift store clothing that is too big for your baby now, but will be needed in the future.

Launder your Purchases

Before dressing your infant in thrift store finds – or even clothes from the retail store – you should of course wash the clothing carefully.  There is a possibility of germs or allergens such as pet hair being present from handling by other shoppers, but water, soap and dryer heat can neutralize most contaminants.  Even brand new clothes often contain sizing, a chemical that factories apply to make fabric easier to sew, which should be washed out before wearing.

These tips for picking out thrift store clothes for your infant should get you off to a good start if you’re a novice, and help you hone your strategies if you are a seasoned second-hand shopper.  Remember to begin your shopping early, make quality and condition of the clothes your priorities, and be flexible about size, color and pattern.  Then, prepare for the compliments that are sure to come on your baby’s well-chosen wardrobe.  You’ll gain a lot of satisfaction and save a bundle of money buying thrift store clothing for your little bundle of joy.