Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Single Income Families: Frugal Clothing

This week my kids and I went shopping for clothes, since they seem to have sprouted up and nothing fits anymore. We ended up with probably 30 outfits among the three of them—overalls, dresses, pajamas, some lovely boutique outfits. And we didn’t spend a penny. You see, we went shopping in our stash of hand-me-downs, most of which I didn’t spend a penny on to start with.

I know a lot of people say it’s not worth it to hang onto clothes because they take up too much space, yada yada, but in our case keeping clothes has been a lifesaver. I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I have bought clothes for my kids, and even fewer times that I’ve payed full price.

Unless you have special clothing needs (like special dress clothes or work attire), with careful planning, I believe that a family of six should be able to outfit the troops for less than $500 per year. And I don’t mean that they should look like they came out of the rag bag.

Here are a few tips for saving money on clothing.


I learned this lesson one day when I almost absently breathed a sentence prayer, “God, Elizabeth sure needs some new shirts.” Actually I planned to go buy her some…But by the end of the day, someone had given us a big bag of hand-me-downs that included a bunch of shirts in Elizabeth’s size. Now when we have a clothing need I pray *first*!

Have Faith

Another time, when Elizabeth was a baby, we were on a trip to visit family and she had outgrown all but two of her outfits. I asked Billy if we could stop at Wal-Mart on the way and pick up some clothes. As we got closer to our planned stop, he said, “I just don’t have a peace about doing that.” I kind of inwardly rolled my eyes and thought, so what do you expect this child to wear? Well, when we got to my mom’s house—you guessed it—there was a big box of hand-me-down baby clothes from an old family friend. Guess God showed me!

Always Accept Hand-me-downs

Don’t be too proud to accept hand-me-downs. People ask me frequently, “Would you be offended if I offered you some hand-me-downs?” This question just blows my mind. I always say, “No way! We love hand-me-downs at our house!” I don’t feel obligated to keep them all. I sort through them, keep what’s appropriate (or what I like), store what they might grow into, and donate the rest to Goodwill, or pass them on to someone else who can use them.

Of course, you have to have at least a few friends and acquaintances in order for people to offer you clothing. This is one of the very practical reasons it’s beautiful to be part of a community of faith. God uses us to meet each others’ practical needs. And honestly, the hand-me-down clothes I’ve gotten are usually way nicer than what I’d be able to afford if I were buying clothes from the store. Sarah and Elizabeth frequently wear dresses and outfits that would cost $50 to $80 new, and in many cases I wonder if they’ve ever been worn before.

Shop Thrift and Consignment

You have to pick through things at thrift stores, and some stores are better than others, but you can find amazing deals there. Just be choosy. You can find up-to-date styles, brand names, and even clothes with tags still on. One of my brothers got an expensive navy blazer to wear to my wedding at Goodwill for 99 cents. I hear that you can really find good stuff if you shop thrift and consignment shops near upscale neighborhoods. I don’t thrift as much as I should, but it’s something I may do in the future.

Learn to Sew

Anyone can learn to sew simple clothing. Especially if you buy fabric on sale, you can make garments at very low cost. Wal-Mart usually has a dollar-a-yard table with pretty cotton prints. If you bought a couple yards and made a knee length cotton skirt (so nice and cool for summer), you’d have it for less than $3. Add an inexpensive or thrift store shirt and a pair of cheapo flip-flops, and you have a stylish everyday outfit for a little of nothing. Plus, by choosing styles carefully, you can imitate a much more expensive look.

Shop Clearance Racks

Learn to shop off-season. Soon summer clothes will be going on clearance. Wait till they hit rock bottom prices (late August, I’m guessing) and then buy pieces for next spring and summer. Same goes for winter clothes. It’s usually not too hard to guess what size a child will be the next year, so sometimes you can do this for kids too. I have a nice shirt I got on clearance for $3 about 6 years ago, that’s still one of my favorites.

Stick to a Classic Look

It gets expensive to buy trendy clothes only to have them looking dated by the next season. Make classic pieces the foundation of your wardrobe, and then add inexpensive trendy accessories if that’s the look you like. That way you aren’t out much on transient styles. Buy classic shoes in neutral shades that will go with everything.

Be Content

Be happy when someone gives you hand-me-downs even if they are not the exact styles you might have chosen. Don’t fall prey to the “must-have” mentality. Keep your wardrobe simple and let go of the clothing habit, if you have one. A small wardrobe is much easier to maintain anyway.

No comments: