We’re about to make a big understatement here: Kids grow out of stuff fast.
You’ve probably already experienced a failed attempt to snap up a onesie that seemed like it fit just last week.
And shoes? Let’s not even talk about the number of barely-scuffed sneakers that pile up because their feet seem to grow an inch every time you turn around.
But there are ways you can keep growing children from shrinking your bank account. Here are seven tips that can help.
2 of 8Marc Debnam/getty images
Buy Gender Neutral
Exactly as it sounds, buying gender neutral clothing means that your son and daughter (or even future ones) can share the same duds. For example, babies can wear onesies in neutral colors like yellow or navy. Kids can share items like pajama pants, winter gear, raincoats, tennis shoes, and even sweaters.
3 of 8Ruth Jenkinson/getty images
Buy (Gently) Used
It’s simple, yes, but it’s amazing how inexpensive perfectly good secondhand clothing can be. Many parents have large quantities of clothes to unload. Since kids grow so quickly, used kids’ clothes are likelier to be better quality and less worn than adults’—and new sites catering to
Thredup (www.thredup.com): This site is an online swap for outgrown clothing in good condition. Send in a box of gently-used clothes your child can no longer wear (the company will supply you with complimentary boxes), and get either cash back, or a credit toward a new box of used duds in her size. If you sort and box everything yourself, you can receive up to $10 per box. If you use Thredup’s “concierge service” to have them sort through your items, you can earn up to $5 per bundle they sell. Meanwhile, buying a box of clothes costs $9 and contains, on average, 15 pieces of clothing. Better yet, you can browse by age, gender, brand, or season.
Ebay (www.ebay.com): You can often score brand-new clothing here, and some items even have tags. Loads of sellers troll outlets and resell on the site at very reasonable prices—and those selling used pieces often take very good care of them. To be a savvy bidder, look for items that say NWT, which means ‘new with tags’ and NWOT, or ‘new without tags,” and watch out for items in “play condition,” which means the clothing has marks and/or shows signs of wear.
Local parents listserve: Most major cities offer an online parents group that serves young families looking for advice, social outings, local tips, or to exchange outgrown clothing and toys. Just Google “[your city], online parents group” and see what comes up. Parents often offer to sell individual pieces or bags/boxes of clothing by size and season (for example, you might find “a box of winter clothes for boys’ size medium”). You could be lucky enough to scoop up an entire seasonal wardrobe for anywhere from $20 to $40…total.
4 of 8Margaret Lampert/getty images
Go a Size Up
While we don’t want our kids swimming in their everyday clothes, there are definitely some items with which you shouldn’t be afraid to go a size up. Some are worn so infrequently—like raincoats or snow pants—that a bigger size doesn’t seem as obvious the couple times a year that they are used. Other items, like winter PJs, are comfy even if they’re slightly roomy.
5 of 8Deborah Ory/getty images
Rent for Special Occasions
Renting is usually more expensive than owning, but when we’re talking about a dress your two-year-old might only wear once, the “price per wear” ratio changes. If your child is heading to a formal event, dresses and suits can be pricey to purchase. Instead, check out Borrow Baby Couture (borrowbabycouture.com), a baby clothing rental site where you can snag new or nearly new one-time-use fancy dresses.
6 of 8Julie Toy/getty images
Don’t Fall for Cute
We all get bitten by the cute bug from time to time: “These shoes are so adorable! I have to buy them!” You could say I’m the opposite: My 4-year-old daughter has three pairs of shoes at any given time: two pairs of sneakers and a pair of desert boots she can wear with dresses and jeans alike. Swap out the boots for a pair of sandals in the summer and we’re done. That way, we really use them, and even wear them out by the time she’s outgrown them.
7 of 8Dana Hoff/getty images
Find creative ways to repurpose old clothing. When your kid’s legs are getting too long for those footie pajamas, cut off the feet–your little one won’t mind her feet sticking through and wearing those PJs for another six months. Snag these onesie extenders, which for the price of a couple new onesies, can add a size onto your babies’ whole existing wardrobe. One mom we know repurposed a moth-eaten sweater into arm warmers by cutting off the sleeves. Cut the toes off of outgrown socks, and turn them into little ankle warmers (girls love these, especially when the pattern on the sock is cute). You get the idea–just take a fresh look at your kids’ expiring wardrobe to get some new spins on the items.
8 of 8Walter B. McKenzie/getty images
Take Care of Them
It goes without saying, but clothing and shoes will last longer (and you won’t have to replace them before the kids grow out of them) if you take good care of them. With kids, that’s especially difficult, but also particularly important. Plus, they’ll be in much better shape to pass down to a younger sibling. A few easy steps you can take:
Weather-treat shoes and boots
Treat stains as soon as possible
Launder clothing in cold water, and dry on low heat