By Cherie Lowe
It happens without any fanfare or even an announcement. One day, all seems well and the next we can have utter chaos on our hands. The shorts are too short, the shoes are too tight and the shirt doesn’t cover the midsection when arms are raised overhead.
You think I’d be better at anticipating the necessity of the process 14 years into parenting. Kids just grow so stinking fast. It seems like you go from having more than enough to nothing fits in a week’s time.
Crushed by the short time frame, you’re willing to put anything and everything that might remotely work in the cart.
Budgeting for kids’ clothes can be challenging because you just never know when they’ll shoot up 2 inches. Or you encounter the last minute request for specific garments for their extracurricular activities. You can begin implementing strategies to help you save, even if you have to make a purchase unexpectedly.
Focus on the basics
Every kid has set needs that never change. Socks, underwear, shoes, tops and bottoms — the constants you can’t take them out in public without. Rather than getting carried away with cute new styles and trends, ensure that your kids have their needs met first. Solid color shirts and durable jeans or shorts should be the mainstay of your child’s wardrobe. Concentrate on interchangeable basic pieces.
Keep a size list
More than once I’ve stumbled upon a supreme bargain, but in the moment I can’t for the life of me remember my kids’ sizes. When you can, keep a running list of shoe and clothing sizes. Whether it’s a note on your smartphone or on a card, write down all of the specifics. And if they’d like to have a copy for themselves, offer the same information to grandmas, aunties, or any other person who might bless your child with clothes.
Search for coupons
Coupons just aren’t for canned food or toilet paper. Make it a point to routinely search for a coupon. Both stores located in the mall and big box retailers regularly offer discounts on kids’ clothes. If there’s a store in particular that you frequent to shop for your children, be sure you’re a member of their Rewards program and/or eClub.
You’ll be the first to know about big sales, collect points for the purchases you’d be making anyway, and often receive a special discount on your child’s birthday.
Thrift and secondhand
You may want to consider consignment stores and sales or thrift stores for your kids’ clothing needs, too. You can often find gently used, quality name brands at a fraction of the price when you purchase secondhand. Be sure you thoroughly check for stains and tears before you buy.
And with any used clothing, clothing or furniture purchase (especially those made on line), keep in mind that strong detergents or potential third hand smoke might cause those prone to sensitivity problems. A good sniff test could save you plenty of money and woe in the long term.
Buy it again
If your child had great luck with a particular brand or style of shoe or clothing, it’s a good idea to invest in the same product in the next size up. Especially when it comes to durability, it’s worth paying a little bit more for a garment that you know will last. If you can no longer find the item in stores, check for the specific brand name and when available product description online.
Shop off season
While it’s difficult to know the exact size your child will be next winter, March is the perfect month to find winter clothes for next year. Shop up one to two sizes and score the best deals on coats, hats, gloves and boots. Repeat the same pattern at the end of the spring, summer and fall seasons. Often, I can score better deals on clearance than even thrift store clothing.
Don’t get carried away
I love finding fun clothes for my kids that fit their personalities and sense of style. But in the end, if I overbuy I end up with more laundry than necessary (and if you read my column regularly, you know how much I loathe laundry). Around birthdays and holidays, ask grandparents to supply specific needs of the child as gifts.
They might not know that your child doesn’t have a single pair of shorts that fit any more or could really use a new set of fun pajamas. Weed through your son or daughter’s wardrobe once a season and pass along the items that no longer fit. Keep the drawers and closet neat so you can see what items your child has.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.