When it comes to buying children's clothing, there are two kinds of shoppers. There are folks who look at a tiny pair of jeans and think, "How can they charge this much for so little fabric?" And then there are the people who look at those same jeans (and the shoes, and the itsy-bitsy socks) and say, "OMG, did you see this pair? It has ruffles!"
Either way, shopping for kids' clothes can be overwhelming, for both you and your budget. That's why we've put together a few tips to help you navigate the aisles (both physical and virtual) with a little more confidence. Whether you're newly pregnant and looking to stock your layette, or just shopping for a friend, rest assured that the advice below is mom-tested and wallet-approved.
Safety First, Style Second
While cuteness is likely a premiere factor in buying children's clothing, your little one's safety should always prevail. This is especially important for newborns, since clothing actually helps to regulate their body temperature. Too many layers can cause them to overheat; too few clothes, and their temperature will plummet. The American Academy of Pediatrics' website for parents, HealthyChildren.org, recommends clothes that snap or zip down the front, or down both legs. Clothes should also be made of a stretchy, breathable fabric (like cotton) that won't be too tight, and you should avoid anything with ribbons or strings that can knot up, unravel, or come untied: these can be choking hazards.
Your best bet is to invest in clothing that's easy to put on, easy for baby to move around in, and easy to add layers to. Bodysuits or onesies, T-shirts, and sleepers are great. Because these staples rarely go on clearance, pick them up in multi-packs during sitewide sales for stores like Carter's and The Children's Place. Such sales are best paired with stacking coupons, although these often require a minimum purchase. But if you're stocking up, the savings can add up. Last year, Carter's offered 18 coupons that stacked with ongoing sitewide sales but required a minimum purchase; these promotions offered an average extra discount of 21% off $41.
Growing Children, Shrinking Wallet
Naturally, children grow up. However, seeing it happen in real time can make you feel proud, sad, or exasperated – especially when your toddler's on their third pair of shoes in as many weeks. Growth spurts can be at their most dramatic when your wee one is still a baby. After all, most babies will triple their birth weight in the first year.
Because growth is constant, parents should always, always buy the bigger size. Under no circumstances should you ever buy the size your child is currently wearing. If you've got a newborn, buy sizes 3M to 6M. At three to six months, buy 9M to 12M. At a year old, buy 18M to 24M, or 2T. At two years, buy 3T to 4T, and so on. Of course, if your child starts off at the top (or bottom) end of the weight spectrum, you'll need to adjust this to fit his or her needs. If little Sally adheres well to a consistent schedule of growth, you could potentially take advantage of end-of-season clearance sales that take up to 80% off (or more) for the following year.
Don't Waste Money on Shoes for Newborns
One expense that parents of newborns don't have to worry about yet is shoes. Because babies' feet are still developing, it's best to just let them go barefoot. "If you're taking your baby outside and want to protect his feet from the sun or cold, opt for something that's soft, flexible and breathable," say the experts at Parenting magazine. "You could simply put on a pair of socks, if he won't be tempted to pull them off, or you could look for a moccasin-like shoe."
Parents of toddlers should opt for shoes with flexible soles, though the child will likely grow out of these very quickly. Be ready to buy multiple sizes at once, so you're prepared for the next growth spurt. As the magazine advises, "Don't feel like dropping 50 bucks on a pair that will only fit for a few months? Then don't." Better yet, check out our kids' shoes deals to avoid over-paying altogether, no matter how old your child is!
Make the Most of Gifts and Hand-Me-Downs
Here at dealnews, we understand the value of a good freebie. Between baby showers and showers of hand-me-downs, new parents may laugh at the idea of ever needing to buy clothes for their children. Unfortunately, freebies sometimes come with a few complications of their own.
When it comes to gifts, always (politely) ask for gift receipts. That way, you can take all 7,000 of those adorable little outfits, each one a size N, and exchange them for larger sizes. You can also take this opportunity to exchange the more elaborate outfits for simpler, more baby-friendly designs. (If you're not sure whether something is "baby-friendly," think about whether it can be safely thrown in the washer after its been covered in vomit.) Of course, you can avoid this situation altogether by registering for items at Target, Kohl's, and the like.
Hand-me-downs are awesome, but they can come with strings attached. "I know moms who 'just assumed' their friend would throw them a couple $20s or buy a couple dinners after they passed off their [kids'] beloved sleepers," read a blog for Mommyish. "Hand-me-downs are great. They help plenty of families. But the truth is, you need to know what you're getting into." When someone gives you their kids' gently used clothing, always make sure it really is a gift. Will they expect payment? Do they want the clothes returned? Will they be upset if you sell these clothes at a yard sale? Finding out all the details ahead of time can save a lot of hurt feelings later.
With these things in mind, buying clothes for your kids doesn't have to be a headache. By sticking with easy-to-wear styles and keeping ahead of your child's growth rate, you'll have plenty of money left over to buy all the other stuff your child needs, and then some! Do you, readers, have any tricks or tips on how to save even more money on kids' clothes? Did you get everything for free at a baby shower? Or maybe you saved all your own clothing from childhood, and your kids are all sporting retro-chic styles? Tell us all about it in the comments below.