The average U.S. family (with one or two children) spends $1,881 on clothing per year, and I know many families who spend a lot more than that! However, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for your children to be well dressed, in fact, you can find plenty of nice children’s clothing for little or no cost at all!
As a former children’s resale shop owner, I just can’t bring myself to pay full retail for all of my children’s clothing. Ever since I sold my shop in 2006 I’ve managed to supply at least 75% of my two youngest children’s wardrobes, and 25% of my two older children’s wardrobes with free (or almost free) high quality, name brand second hand clothing. As children hit school age it becomes harder to find nice second hand clothing that suits their taste, but it’s still possible to find some if you know where to look!
There are also a couple other reasons why choosing second hand clothing is a smart choice. A typical article of clothing goes through a process of bleaching, dying, straightening, shrink reduction, stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, mothproofing, and static/wrinkle-reduction which all adds up to a whole lot of chemicals! I’m sure all moms would agree that children running around in clothing that’s be drenched with formaldehyde and sulfuric acid (plus many other chemicals) just doesn’t sound like a wise idea. Because second hand clothing has been washed quite a few times, it contains significantly less chemical residue than a brand new item. Choosing second hand clothing is also eco-friendly, it requires no extra manufacturing, chemical treatments or packaging, little transporting and keeps a perfectly good article of clothing from entering the landfill.
Here are 10 eco-friendly ways to outfit your children in nice second hand clothing for free (or almost free)…
It’s amazing what you can get if you just ask one simple question: “Do you have anything you’d like to pass along?” There is no need to be shy or embarrassed, most moms prefer to pass on their child’s clothing to someone they know. I love seeing my friend’s children wearing something we passed along, it’s a great feeling! If you show that you are very grateful for the clothing you’ve been given, chances are the next time your friends clean out their child’s closet you’ll be the first one they call. Moms’ clubs and other play groups are also perfect for this kind of exchange, so start joining & start sharing!
2. Be Charitable
Church & school rummage sales are known for selling practically free clothing, often for less than $1 per piece. The last time I attended a rummage sale they were offering “fill a bag for $1″, and the clothing was top quality! Rummage sales function by members donating their goods, and 100% of the profits from sales go to the organization.
3. Clothing Swaps
Get rid of what you don’t need and pick up what you do at a baby/children’s clothing swap. How does it work? People bring any unwanted clothes, and the clothes are sorted by size or gender. At a set time, “shwopping” begins, no money is ever exchanged. Leftovers are donated to charity. For my step-by-step guide, see How to Organize a Clothing Swap. If you are here in San Diego, the Jewish Community Center offers a wonderful swap for both clothing & toys called “Shalom Baby Swap” several times a year. I supplied 99% of my youngest daughter’s wardrobe from birth-1 year with clothing I got at this swap!
4. Thrift Stores
Thrift stores like Goodwill & The Salvation Army are great places to find baby and children’s clothing for next to nothing. Because their inventory is 100% dependent on donations, finding good quality clothing can be hit or miss. Find out if your local thrift store has any sale days and try to stop by once a week to see what’s in stock.
To find a shop near you, try searching TheThriftShopper.
5. Bid for a Lot
You can get the best deals in online auctions like eBay if you buy a “lot” or in other words, a bunch of clothing. Instead of paying $10 for a single piece, you’ll pay more like $2 a piece and get a whole season’s worth of clothes. Another advantage is that eBay lots often include high quality, name brand clothing!
6. Yard Sales
If you put your mind to it, you can find a complete wardrobe for your child(ren) by frequenting yard sales over the summer. Create a list of what articles of clothing your child will need for each season, and start attending yard sales every Saturday morning throughout summer. People sell gorgeous baby & children’s clothing at yard sales for next to nothing! The key is being organized, mapping out the sales you want to stop by & arriving as soon as the sale starts- the great deals always go fast. Hint: Look for yard sale ads that contain the words “family”, “baby” and/or “children”.
7. Free Lists
Craigslist’s free section often has boxes of clothing. (Search the “free” category under “For Sale.”) The clothing and kids’ sections also have tons of low-cost options, such as bags of clothes for $10.
Tip: If you are looking for something specific but don’t want to check back every day, have Google email you when it comes up. Go to Google Alerts, type in what you are looking for followed by “site:” and your local Craigslist url. For example: “18 months boys site: http://sandiego.craigslist.org/.”
8. Children’s Resale Shops
You’re more likely to find name brand and designer clothing at resale or consignment shops, than at thrifts or rummage sales. Because both the donator and the store share profits, these shops can be more pricey, but still a fraction of what the clothes sell for new. like I mentioned above, I used to own a children’s resale shop, and we got in a ton of really nice stuff! Most of these types of stores only sell clothing in excellent condition, and are much better organized than thrift shops.
If you haven’t heard of Freecycle, you’re in for a treat! This is a website kind of like Craigslist, but no money is allowed to be exchanged- that’s right, it’s all FREE! Stay on top of what’s being offered in your city, and you’re sure to come across an offer of free children’s clothing.
Tip: If you want mountains of free clothes without mountains of emails, create a rule in your email program to send all Freecyle posts to two separate mailboxes. One for all offers with the words “clothes” or “clothing,” and one for everything else.
10. Thredup & Zwaggle
Rummage through virtual yard sales in your pajamas with clothing exchange websites. At thredUP, a kind of Netflix for second-hand kids’ clothes, you exchange gently-used clothing in an organized system using Priority Mail boxes. Zwaggle works more like a co-op, where you earn points when you give clothes and spend points when you receive clothes. Both are great options!
Where do you go for great deals on second hand children’s clothing? Please leave a comment and share!
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