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    Frugal Moment: Acquiring Winter Wardrobes for Littles

    October 7, 2006 by Brandy Vencel
    She is not afraid of the snow for her household…
    {Proverbs 31:21a}


    Winter wardrobes can be quite costly, especially if one lives somewhere where the season is harsh {thankfully, our winters are quite reasonable}. We adults can purchase quality winter attire and know that it will serve us well for years to come. Children, however, often cannot wear the same clothes even two seasons in a row. This means that, even when one can afford it, investing heavily in expensive winter clothing {or any clothing, for that matter}, is not the best use of one’s resources.

    Some women I know are skilled in sewing, knitting, and crocheting, and can produce warm sweaters and jackets by hand. I am not one of these people. I have, however, begun to learn a few basic methods of preparing for the cold season without breaking the family piggy bank.


    What one already owns is cheapest

    The storage shelving in my garage is lined with boxes of children’s clothing. Each box has a number, and each number has a matching index card in a card file in my house. The index cards contain lists of what exactly is in each box. This is how I prevent wasting huge amounts of time searching for items.

    We are at the beginning of our childbearing years, so I am sure the boxes will pile up with time. This is a good thing. It is always cheaper to keep and reuse what we already have on hand {most of which, by the way, we did not pay for but rather received in the form of birthday and Christmas gifts}.


    Gently Used Children’s Clothing

    At this point, we only have one boy and one girl. This means that there is a very minimal amount of clothing that can be shared between the two children. Once I prepare a list of what we will need to make it from autumn’s onset to Christmas Day, the first place I go is a little store I know of that specializes in reselling gently used children’s clothing. This sort of shop is generally more expensive than places like the Salvation Army or Goodwill stores, and costs more than twice as much as garage sales, but I find I save money by only going to one place. This is because gas costs money. When hunting for deals, one cannot afford to forget that saving $2.00 on clothes but spending $2.50 on gas is actually an overall loss to the family’s checking account.

    Second hand stores tend to follow the seasons, so sometimes it pays to call (rather than waste gas!) and make sure that the new season’s clothing is available. For instance, I know to wait until November 1st before shopping for dressy holiday clothing because my little store doesn’t put anything like that out before then.

    An additional hint for getting the most out of a second-hand store is to bring something to sell. Most of these stores sell and buy. I decluttered the playroom and the clothing boxes before my most recent visit. Though I keep the majority of our kids’ clothes for future children to wear, not all clothes are keepers. Some are difficult to get on and off {my kids have big heads, others aren’t convenient for potty training}, others might be too trendy to wear in a future season, and a couple outfits never seemed modest enough for our daughter and we prefer our next one never wear them. On my last trip, selling our cast-off items paid for half of our total bill, making my expenditure less than seven dollars!


    Watch Local Classifieds

    Here in California, there is a wonderful publication called the PennySaver. More than once, I have seen boxes of children’s clothing listed for sale. Sometimes a box of 50 items–all in one or two sizes–will be as cheap as fifteen or twenty dollars. I have learned to watch for these boxes to be sold by people living in good neighborhoods. It is even better if they boast of “better brands” such as OskKosh or Gymboree. In my experience, better brands purchased second hand often last longer than cheap clothing purchased in new condition.



    Never say “no” to hand-me-downs. If they do not work immediately, they may work for another child. Or, they can be used to bless another family in the neighborhood. Lastly, they can be sold to a second-hand store and traded for clothing that is more appropriate.

    Pray for hand-me-downs. We were the first of our close friends to have children, so this isn’t something that is abundant in our life. Still, they have appeared when we needed them most.

    Also, don’t give too much away. Give away excesses, duplicates, or occasionally whatever can meet a truly pressing need, but don’t give away so much that the family then bears the burden of repurchasing items for future children. The name of the clothing game is often thinking ahead and realizing that there may be more children someday, so certain items are worth keeping.

    Also, don’t be afraid to lend rather than permanently give. We have a few boy items we don’t need right now that are specialty items: ski pants and ski vest, a zip-up blanket, etc. If God gives us another boy someday, we will certainly want to use these things, but there is no reason not to let others use them in the meantime. Some people have borrowed them for a special trip to the snow, others have borrowed to last the season, but we always get these items back so that we will be prepared for the possibilities of our own future.


    Shopping: The Last Resort

    Again, I’d like to emphasize the cost in driving around. Unless there is something specific that one cannot find at one’s local haunts, it is best to watch for deals along one’s normal route. For instance, Target recently had a collection of winter clothing priced barely higher than the average second-hand store, and I still needed something after exploring all the other options above. This ended up being a great way to round out A.’s basic wardrobe while buying usual household items, meaning I didn’t spend extra time and gas hunting around.


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  • Reply Brandy October 10, 2006 at 5:53 am

    Thanks so much for the link! I think I will find it very useful. 🙂

  • Reply Kimbrah October 10, 2006 at 2:31 am


    A blog that I read (when she chooses to write anything) is Makarios Moments and she had a great idea for sizing children’s clothes that are mis-sized by the manufacturer. I haven’t gone through and done this yet, but eventually I will. Here’s the link-
    You’ll probably have to cut and paste because I don’t know how to make it linkable on here, but there is an Excel file linked on the post that has the sizing chart. Very helpful. Thanks for the tips!

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