Monday, January 11, 2016

4 Ways I Buy Clothes On a Small Budget

For the last few years, our family has been on a pretty strict budget. My husband and my brother run their own business, and for the first couple of years money was really inconsistent, so we had to be REALLY consistent so we could make it through the lean months on the leftovers of the better months. Now that the business has grown, we can count on a consistent salary each month, but since we're still paying off student loans and just finished paying off our car, we've chosen to keep the budget tight. (As my friend recently said to me, "We're trying to Dave Ramsey the crap out of those loans.") All of which is to lead into the fact that I don't go on many shopping sprees.

Each month, we have a small amount of discretionary money set aside for each member of the family. Eric and I get $50 each, and the girls get $75 together (which covers D's diapers and wipes and then anything else they might need). That covers activities, gifts, splurges, etc. and though I've gotten pretty good at stretching it, it's not a huge amount. Occasionally when a family member has a dire need for something big like shoes or coats, we'll move the budget around, but those emergencies aren't frequent. A sale at my favorite store usually doesn't count as an emergency.

But the fact is, I do like to shop for clothes, and I like having something different to wear. I like buying my girls clothes for special occasions. Which means I pretty much never want to spend $50 on one item, ever, or I'm totally out for the month.

Here are some of the ways I stick to my budget and still manage to feel like I can dress nicely without getting totally bored of my clothes or missing out on the fun of putting my two girls in matching things. This probably won't ever be a fashion blog, but I can enjoy clothes and pay off and save at the same time.
  • I'm not afraid to buy kid's clothes used. Kids grow out of things so fast, it's just never worth it to pay $30+ for their clothes, especially when you never know if they're about to have a growth spurt two seconds after you make a big purchase. Not to mention the fact that for the past year my older daughter has become SO opinionated about her clothes, and most days she spends the majority of the day in a dress up anyway. Kid-to-Kid and Just Between Friends have been my go-to when I've needed to fill in gaps in the hand-me-down stash. A coat here, some warm jammies there, a few pairs of shoes - I've found some great stuff for my kids at consignment stores. Last year at the Just Between Friends sale I found a little girl's dress I had wanted to buy about a year before but had passed up because it was $30. At JBF it still had the tags on it, but I paid $4. Win. D is getting it for Christmas, just before she grows into it.
    I got that Land's End coat at a consignment sale. I think it will last C for a couple of years and I'm guessing it will still be going when D is ready for it.
  • I've embraced the online thrift store. This took me longer because thrift stores are just hard with little kids. However, I recently discovered Thredup when one of my friends posted it on facebook. I got $20 in my account to try it, and every time someone I refer uses it I get an extra $20, so I've gotten about $80 free and then have spent a little of my actual money here and there to get myself a couple of new dresses, shirts, sweaters, etc. They even have kids clothes, and I recently bought my girls some coats and dresses. The prices are higher than a thrift store, but the quality is mostly better, and it's really nice to be able to filter down your search by size, color, and category. (If you want to try thredup, you can use my referral link and get $20 to try it.) 

  • I accept hand me downs for my girls - and myself. I don't think I bought more than about 3 pieces of maternity clothing until halfway through my second pregnancy, thanks to my sister-in-law and some stretchy shirts, and I've hardly bought anything for my oldest daughter thanks to baby showers and hand me downs from her cousin. (Of course, she's so dang tall that she's about to pass up the cousin who was giving the hand me downs, so we'll probably have to rethink that in the future - but it was really nice while it lasted.) The hard thing about this is not letting the hand me downs take over. Now that my second daughter is wearing them I've started going through them and tossing the things I don't love. Babies may be messy, but by the time they're a year old they aren't going through more than 2 outfits a day. 
  • I wait. A few weeks ago I had some Old Navy Cash. I had something I wanted, but it wasn't in stores, and I didn't want to pay for shipping or buy $50 worth of stuff to get free shipping. Then, on the last day of Old Navy cash, when I'd pretty much decided to forget about it, I got a coupon for free shipping on $25, which apparently worked when the item was $25 even if it was much cheaper once the coupons applied. The dress was $12, free shipping. Bam. Plus, by the time I'd waited that long, I knew I really did want the dress. You might miss out on a few things by waiting, but buying on an impulse almost always leads to me spending more and regretting the purchase after, whereas I never regret the item I wanted at full price but for for $3 on the clearance rack a couple of months later. 
My dress: Thredup (free with credits)
D: Hand-me-downs, heed to toe
C: Hand-me-down
E: Sweater bought in the after Christmas sale last year.
How about you? Do you have any tricks for refreshing your wardrobe and keeping your family clothed without breaking the bank? 

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