Save-Big Strategies for Children’s Clothing
“I have read your column for several years. You advise to stock up before you need something, but please tell me what you do when you actually need something right now. For example, my daughter grew out of her sneakers and needed a pair immediately. I wish I had time to get a good deal on them, but I didn’t. How do you handle shopping for clothes for children who might have unpredictable growth spurts?”
Buying items when they’re on sale, at their lowest prices, is the best way to save money. With groceries, I accomplish this by buying a little more than I need when the price is low. Then, when I run out of something, I head to my pantry, where I’ve got everything from extra ketchup to more paper towels that were purchased when prices were low. By shopping ahead of our family’s needs, I try to avoid situations where we’ve completely run out of something and are forced to pay full price.
With regards to shopping for children’s clothing, I do apply a similar strategy: Stock up when the prices are low, then keep items in larger sizes on hand for future needs. I’ve been shopping this way since my children were born. I follow the sales cycles pretty closely and buy clothes for upcoming seasons after one season has passed. For example, just this week I bought several long-sleeved shirts for my sons, as well as flannel-lined jeans – a must for layering up during cold Midwest winters. Of course, summer is almost here, so any cold-weather clothing left from last winter is at rock-bottom prices on the clearance racks. I purchased the formerly $15.99 shirts for $2.99 each, and the flannel lined jeans were only $9.99, marked down from $31.99.
The way I look at it, my sons will pass through all of the children’s clothing sizes at some point, so I’m never afraid to buy ahead for them. My youngest son may wear a size 10 now, but at some point he’ll be a 12, then a 14 and then a 16. My children’s closets have multiple winter coats in varying sizes, winter boots, dress shoes and gym shoes.
As diligent as I try to be about having larger sized clothes and shoes on hand for them, we’re still faced with the occasional situation where we need something now – as my reader noted above. One summer, my son outgrew a pair of sandals in early August, and I didn’t have another pair waiting for him. We went to several stores before we realized that while it was still summertime, most stores had already clearance out their summer gear to put fall clothes on display. (Think about how early swimsuits hit the stores – they arrive in January.) I ended up ordering a new pair online for him, which fortunately was on sale as part of an “end of season” promotion.
If you need something right now, whether it’s new shoes, a jacket or a new pair of jeans, you’re likely going to have to bite the bullet and simply look for the best price available at the time. Fortunately, with the help of the internet, it’s never been easier to compare prices between retailers and see which store has the best prices. Many stores’ websites allow you to search the inventory within your local store, too, so you know whether or not your item is in stock before you head over, which saves both time and gas. Don’t forget to look for coupon codes, too! Some department stores allow you to shop online, and then pick the item up at your local store afterward – a great way to use an online coupon code on an item you planned to buy in-store.
Next week, I’ll share even more of my clearance clothing shopping strategies, both for children and adults.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.