I’ve mostly been writing about food lately, but today I want to veer off a little bit to talk about one of my favorite green living topics: buying used kids clothes. Keira will be 3 in a couple of months, and so far nearly all of the clothes I’ve purchased for her have been used. I’m sure that this will get harder as she gets older, but for now I LOVE shopping used.
Why I Buy Used Kids Clothes
I Save a Ton of Money
Shopping used saves me so much money. When you know where to look, you can easily find an abundance of high-quality used clothes that are still in excellent shape. When I buy them used, I’m paying a fraction of the cost of what buying those clothes new would be. And in most cases, you can’t even tell that those clothes are secondhand.
Saving money on Keira’s clothes is one way that I can afford expensive real food while living on one income in an area of the country with a very high cost of living.
Buying used clothes is good for the environment because you’re making use of clothes that have already been produced. Those clothes don’t have to go to the landfill or be recycled, AND you save on the use of the resources that would be needed to produce new clothes.
It’s Fun—and Less Stressful
I enjoy shopping for baby and toddler clothes. If I were paying retail prices, I’m sure there would be extra stress in worrying about sticking to a precise budget and making sure that Keira would get the most use out of everything that I bought. When I shop secondhand, though, I can have a little more freedom with my money. I can buy something that I think might work for her, but if it doesn’t pan out I’m only out a couple of dollars so it’s no big deal.
My General Tips for How to Buy Used Kids Clothes
Know your price point
After shopping around, you’ll get a good sense of what you’re willing to pay for each item of clothing. This will be dependent on the prices where you live, as well as how much time you’re willing to invest. I personally prefer not to pay more than $2 per items for shirts, pants or shorts. If it’s something that I really like, I’ll sometimes go up to $3.
I expect to pay more like $3 to $4 for pajama sets, and $5 or more for winter jackets and any formal clothes that she needs.
Knowing your price point is really important at someplace like a consignment sale, where the prices can vary wildly if all the consignors price their own items. Sometimes you’ll come across secondhand items that are actually more expensive than if you were to buy the similar item at a retail store! Know what you’re willing to spend before you go in.
In order to give yourself time to buy everything you need, you always need to be buying ahead. If you wait until your child needs a pair of 2T shorts, the chance of you finding what you want used is much smaller. Instead, make sure you’re buying at least a season ahead of what your child needs.
If you get really skilled, you can also buy several seasons ahead of what your child is wearing. I’ve scaled back on this as my daughter has gotten older, however, as I’m not good at predicting how her clothing needs will changed based on things like potty training, changes in body shape, etc. For babies, though, I certainly think it’s worth it to try to stockpile a bunch of sizes ahead, as I didn’t find baby clothing to change that much with size.
Where to Shop for Used Kids’ Clothes
There are definitely some places to shop for kids clothes online, but I like shopping for clothes in person so I can look them over in detail. (This was particularly important to me as Keira’s cloth diapers didn’t fit under many shorts and pants, so I really needed to see things in person to see if they would work.) Here are my favorite places to look for kids clothes:
Many areas have regular big consignment sales for kids items. Where I live, this sale is Outrageous Outgrowns. It’s held twice yearly and I always go.
I like consignment sales because my local sale has a huge selection of kids clothes all in the same place. This eliminates a lot of different trips to different places. Clothes are also well organized by size, which isn’t always true at thrift stores.
As I mentioned above, consignment sales that allow consignors to price their own items can have a huge variety in prices. Make sure you know what a reasonable price is before shopping.
Thrift stores are pretty hit or miss for me. They tend to have some of the lowest prices, however often selection is not great. I recommend checking out the thrift stores in your area and seeing if there are any good ones. When I lived in Colorado, there was an ARC nearby that had a good selection of baby clothes. We also had a Goodwill and Salvation Army in town, but I rarely shopped there because their kids sections were very limited.
Here in California, I’ve only found Savers to have a decent selection of kids clothes. However, I don’t make a special trip to look for kids clothes. If I’m in there for some other reason, like shopping for cooking stuff or clothes for myself, I will always check out the kids stuff. Usually I find an item or two that I like, which is worth it if I’m already there but not worth it for a separate trip.
I’ve had some success with kids consignment stores. In my experience, though, their price point is much higher than consignment sales and thrift stores, so I’m listing them last here. I’ve gotten some good deals on clothes during clearance sales.
Consignment stores can also be an excellent option if you need something soon and are willing to pay a bit more, but still don’t want to have to pay as much as you’d pay for an entirely new item.