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Green and Frugal Ways to Clothe Your Kids


It seems like my kids outgrow their clothes every few months. Pants will fit fine one day and the next time they are put on, they’re suddenly too short. If I were to go out and buy new clothes every time this happened, I’d be in debt. As it is, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to clothe my children very inexpensively and I’d like to share some of those with you.

How to Clothe Your Kids Without Breaking the Bank

  • Buy second hand clothing. This is my number one tip. You could do this by shopping at Goodwill, yards sales, consignment sales, or even online (Thred Up and eBay come to mind.) I have used all of these methods and saved beaucoup bucks in the process. I also always keep a look out for the next size up and the next season’s clothes when I am out shopping.
  • Save your clothes if you want to have more children.  You might not want to save every piece of clothing (especially if your kids always end up with way more clothes than they need like mine do!), but save enough to have a small wardrobe. Next child that you have will already have a wardrobe when they are born, or at least have the basics (onesies, bibs, etc) if they’re born in a different season.
  • Find someone to swap with. Easy enough. Find someone who has children similar in age to yours, but perhaps they had a boy and then a girl and you had a girl and then a boy. you can swap clothes and both save money. There are any number of examples where this could work. Just make sure to answer a couple basic questions first, such as do you want the clothes returned. This can work even if you want to save your child’s clothes for any subsequent children. Here’s how I have done this in the past. When Emily and I both lived in Scotland, we discovered that her children (who are each 7 months older than my two) were exactly one size above my kids. However, Emily and her husband knew they wanted another child (and she is pregnant with their third right now!), so they wanted to save the clothes. It seemed pointless for them to languor in storage, though, for 3 or 4 years when they could be used by others (namely, me!). So, we set up a system where she would pass clothes down to me and would write her initial on the tag of each piece of clothing. My child would wear it until it got too small for them, and then the clothing would be returned. If something got messed up accidentally, no big deal. We also agreed I’d make sure to put old clothes on my kids in the event of a messy activity (i.e. playing outside or doing crafts), which I would do anyway. It worked out beautifully and I was able to return everything we borrowed in good condition (thanks to some Shout).
    I have a similar set up here with one of my friends. Her daughter wears the same size of clothes, so I can’t hand those down to her, but she does wear a smaller shoe size than my daughter, so I pass shoes down to her. Her daughter wears them and then they get returned when she outgrows them. Not only is this frugal, its green too since new items aren’t being made and then bought.
  • Make your kids’ clothes. A lot of times this costs more than just buying something secondhand. However, for items like church dresses or simple skirts and pajamas, it can be way cheaper. (Depending on what type of fabric you buy and whether you get it on sale or not.) This might not be an option for a lot of people, but if you sew (or want to learn how) a lot of these things don’t take much time to make. There are lots of free online tutorials for how to make kids cloths. Here are a few ideas.


    The shirt and leggings are from a consignment sale. I made the skirt.

  • Upcycle your kids’ clothes. I just turned a dress that wouldn’t fit next year into a skirt by cutting off the top and adding some elastic. It cost less than a dollar and took less than an hour and now my daughter has a skirt she can wear this winter and through next summer. I’ve also taken my son’s winter church shirts (that won’t fit him again next winter) and cut the sleeves off to make summer church shirts. That was also a quick and super inexpensive project. Ashley over at Make It and Love It has tons of tutorials on how to upcycle clothing.
  • Buy fewer clothes. Buying fewer clothes means spending less money. I’ve recently realized that our family has WAY too many clothes. I’ve  weeded out the stuff that doesn’t fit quite right or that I just don’t like. We still have too many clothes. Stephanie over at Keeper of the Home wrote a blog post about it. Crystal at Money Saving Mom has also posted about it. I’m about to take the plunge this winter and drastically reduce my kids wardrobe and see what happens. I’ll put the extra stuff in a box in the attic and if I don’t need it over the course of a month of two, it all gets donated to Goodwill.

These are the ways my family has used to keep our clothing budget under control. There’s lot of information on the subject out there. Here are a few links I found. Some of these go more in depth than I did about the particulars of each idea than I did.

Keeper of the Home – Clothing Kids Without Breaking the Bank (This is a three part series. And I didn’t read her post until I’d already written mine. Great minds…. Smile)

Money Saving Mom – How to Make Money Reselling Your Children’s Clothes on EBay

How “Stockpiling” Clothing Saves Us Money and Effort

Mom’s Plan’s – How I Dress My Kids in Gymboree Clothes for Free or Nearly Free – I’ve never tried this, but I do love Gymboree’s clothes.


I’m linking up to Green Your Resource today! Check it out for lots of green ideas and inspiration!

  1. Tara permalink
    10/13/2011 6:48 am

    Nice post! We get lots of boys clothes from my older sister after my nephew outgrows them. After Lincoln outgrows them they go to my neighbor for her son, and then back to us for Isaiah to wear. Then, some of them have been getting passed along to another friend or two for their boys. (and then back to us in case our family grows). I think some of our clothes have been worn by about five or six kids! Some of the clothes definitely look worn, but many still look pretty nice. P.S. I love the skirt you made….super cute.:)

  2. 10/13/2011 12:23 pm

    Question: What if you are a time-crunched working mom who has no time to make clothes, sew clothes, upcycle clothes, or shop other than online? Are Ebay and Thredup my only options? Around here they have a lot of swaps, but I usually can’t make them. Same problem as shopping… I do try to buy from sales online and the once in a blue moon when I am near a store…

    • Karie permalink
      10/13/2011 2:52 pm

      Hi Hannah-I don’t know what Kate will say but my suggestion would be to find out if there is a big consignment sale in your area once or twice a year. This way you can get on their newsletter and set your schedule around it a bit. We have a very large sale in my town twice a year and I spend about $50 a sale and get at least 80% of my kids clothes there for each season. I’ve gotten beautiful Christmas dresses for less then $10 and LOTS of play clothes for a dollar or two.
      Good Luck!

    • Kate permalink*
      10/17/2011 8:31 am

      I agree with Karie. I think that’d be the best use of your time and it would still save you lots of money on your kiddos clothes. You could also see if anyone has any hand me downs to pass along to you. You don’t have much control over what you get that way, but the price is right. :)

  3. 10/13/2011 3:40 pm

    Great post. Thanks for this. I’s SO into second hand. I did a post on this topic too:

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