According to USDA’s most recent report, Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015, otherwise known as “The Cost of Raising a Child,” the estimated clothing expenditures on a child could be as high as $960 per year for a married-couple household with less than $59,200 of before-tax income. In fact, the report also points out that between 2014 and 2015, clothing expenditures have increased by $130 per child on average. Since the report is based on data from a while ago, we can assume that the expenditures have gone up since then due to inflation.
For a median-income household, $960 is not a small amount to part with. Having shopped for clothes for my son, I know that kids’ clothing can cost a lot. Even though a regularly-priced item, like an onesie, does not cost you a ton, the cost quickly adds up. A child usually needs at least 5 or 6 outfits to change into, assuming that they get washed every week. If you happen to have a rambunctious toddler (like mine) who always makes their clothes untidy with color paints, mud, and food residuals, you’d consider getting a couple more pairs of pants and shirts just in case. As of now, the record for my boy is four sets of different clothes in a single day. If I did not have enough spare clothes on hand, I would have to do my laundry much more frequently. Besides, little kids outgrow their clothes so fast. It has not been over two months since I last purchased a pair of new pants for him, but they are already a bit short on him.
Because of these reasons, it makes perfect sense to buy secondhand clothes for kids. Rather than spending on name brand items (e.g., Carter’s, Hanna Andersson, The Children’s Place, etc.) that will cost me 10ish dollars a piece, I looked around to find used clothes in great condition at local stores or through online merchants. Luckily, I have found places where quality kidswear is sold at a significant discount. In what follows, I am passing this knowledge on to you, and hopefully you will be able to scoop up some sweet deals too.
Goodwill/Local Thrift Stores
Start your search at your local Goodwill store. Though stock may vary depending on your location, each store generally keeps a section for kidswear. I happen to live in close proximity to a college town, which means that most of the clientele are college students in their early twenties, so clothes for infants and toddlers are rare finds. (In fact, I noticed that my local Goodwill has started to carry more kidswear after a recent move. The store is now located farther away from the downtown area where the university is. The change in location is likely to have affected both their clientele and the donations they receive.) If you have access to a Goodwill store close to suburb and rural residential areas, you should be able to find kids’ clothes in decent shape at a price way below your budget.
If a brick-and-mortar Goodwill store is nowhere near where you live, you should check out your local thrift stores. Do a quick Google search and read up on reviews about those stores to determine if they carry kidswear. It may take you a few runs to different stores to gather an idea of what their inventories are like. (You may decide that the quality or style is not on par with your standards and opt to buy clothes firsthand.) I am extremely lucky to have a store in my community that is exclusively devoted to serving pregnant women and women with young children by recycling maternity clothing, toys, and kidswear. I have found clothes in almost brand new condition on several occasions, including a snowsuit that has come in handy this winter. One last thing to note, not all stores have an online presence; some are “hidden gems,” which are only known by word-of-mouth. Talk to your mom friends, and they probably know something similar in your area!
Kid to Kid
Kid to Kid is a consignment chain that buys and sells used kids’ apparel, shoes, sports gear, and toys. With more than 90 stores across 22 states, Kid to Kid has lived by its promise to sustainability by helping recycle kids’ items and resell them to families with growing kids. Having shopped there myself, I speak from experience that you should be able to find something decent yet affordable. Because Kid to Kid has a very strict standard when it comes to clothes that it chooses to buy for resale, most of the clothes it carries are in great condition, if not brand new. They are also priced reasonably, with onesies being sold at as low as $0.99 a piece. Last time when I was shopping at my local Kid to Kid, I spent about $13 (tax included) on a Mini Boden camouflage anorak with built-in fleece insulation. It is a nice-looking, water-resistant jacket that works great for spring and fall weather when the temperature drops between 50 °F and 60 °F. (It looks similar to this one, except that the camo is in various hues of green.) A jacket like this is usually priced around 60 or 70 bucks, so I thought it was a quality find considering its price and utility.
To supply the demand for used kidswear, Kid to Kid is always looking to buy from patrons. It follows a rigorous selling guide when picking out items they want to hang on their racks. Last spring, I went in my local Kid to Kid store to get rid of clothes my son has outgrown and a few toys that took up too much space at home. I brought in a bag full of clothes, but only name brand pieces such as Carter’s and Oshkosh were kept. The clerks there were also particular about style and size. Although I brought in quite a few fleece sleepers in great condition, they were not accepted because they wouldn’t be considered “in” enough during summertime, which was right around the corner. From my observation, I think the clerks were also more selective with smaller sizes because they tended to receive more clothes for infants and young toddlers, who outgrow clothes at a much more rapid pace than older children.
Recently, the consignment chain’s business model has drawn some harsh criticisms. Patrons complain that Kid to Kid often makes a lowball offer on everything they bring for sale and later charges others an exorbitant amount, generating revenue from the price difference. This may be a valid complaint if your items were purchased firsthand but never got used. But it is simply misleading to think that you will pocket a lion’s share of your firsthand purchase through Kid to Kid. Anything new taken home will immediately become owned, secondhand, or used, no matter how new it appears. I agree that the price scale should be adjusted to reflect the true value of an item, but I won’t argue against shopping at Kid to Kid for its business model. Moreover, Kid to Kid has indeed worked as a pioneer in the secondhand kidswear industry, creating a channel to connect buyers and sellers, thereby reducing consumption and waste.
Facebook Marketplace is a wonderful feature on Facebook that has gained popularity among users since it was first launched in 2016. Similar to Craiglist, Facebook Marketplace allows users to trade directly without middlemen. Facebook Marketplace delivers a more personal touch to the secondhand shopping experience by requiring a Facebook account for whoever uses the platform to sell or buy a product, whereas Craiglist’s web design allows users to remain anonymous. Recently, Facebook has allowed eligible sellers to offer nationwide shipping for products in certain categories, turning Marketplace from a secondhand trading platform into an e-commerce site like Etsy.
To use Facebook Marketplace, go to your homepage. On the left-hand side of your homepage, click on “Marketplace” whose icon looks like a storefront. Normally, Facebook will provide recommendations based on your current location. If you would like to change where you are, go to “Filters,” which is also to the left of the webpage. Once you click on “Filters,” a pop-up window will allow you to edit your location and the radius of distance you would like Facebook to cover when providing search results.
When you find something that interests you, click on “Message” to contact the seller. Facebook provides you a number of default messages to choose from when arranging a sale with the seller. Or, if you prefer, send the seller a custom message. If you want more information about the item, be sure to ask before buying.
Another benefit of buying through Facebook Marketplace is prices are usually negotiable. Be forthright about how much you’d be willing to pay to save both parties time. Sometimes, the seller may agree to drop off the item at no additional cost to you. Or, the seller may consider a discount when you offer to pick up an item on the same day.
Online Platforms for Used Clothes
The market for secondhand clothes is expanding quickly in recent years. For used kids’ clothes, there are a number of popular online platforms for thrifty shoppers on a small budget. Below are 6 websites that arrange sales of gently used kids’ clothes, with the first three devoted exclusively to kids.
Among all the platforms listed above, I only have experience with ThredUP from both the buying and selling sides. Overall, ThredUP provides a largely accurate estimation of an item’s condition, though measurements are most often missing. In fact, clothing condition is quite visible through images ThredUP has uploaded. You can tell that an item has been well worn from its wrinkles. Another thing to note is that high end brands (e.g., Mini Boden, Janie & Jack, Ralph Lauren) are not priced significantly more expensive than regular clothing brands. So, it may not be a bad idea to splurge a bit if you come across something you really like.
Buy Nothing Local Groups
Buy Nothing local groups are where you can turn to for used kids’ clothes without spending a penny. A brainchild of Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, founders of the Buy Nothing Project, Buy Nothing groups are private groups on Facebook hyper-localized to individual towns and neighborhoods. Members can give away surplus or unwanted items and gift them to those in need. Or, they send a public post in search of (“iso”) what they need.
So, what do people give away on Buy Nothing? Literally anything and everything. Furniture, baking supplies, plants, food, knickknacks, and of particular importance here, kids’ clothes and toys. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Jane Doe’s son may outgrow his winter jacket or Peppa Pig has fallen out of her daughter’s favor. She could be very thrilled about gifting them away to other locals whose kids also enjoy winter sports or develop a liking for the adorable piglet. It’s worth a post, if you don’t mind asking.
But, why do people gift stuff for free? Is there something fishy going on here?
Okay. Hear me out. Have you ever had something that you wanted to get rid of, but couldn’t stand sending it straight to the landfill? It could be that spare vacuum cleaner, or that malfunctioning keyboard, or a bassinet that you forgot to put away and now has gathered dust. Sure, you can toss your junk into the garbage containers and be done with it. But it has consequences we all will face eventually because every piece of plastic or non-biodegradable product we manufacture and consume impacts the natural environment. Just think of the amount of waste we produce and release to our ecosystem on a daily basis. It is terrifying!
If you share my qualms, you would understand why Buy Nothing groups are a legitimate and eco-friendly way to receive kids’ clothes for free. Buy Nothing groups rely on the generosity of community members. Together, community members reduce waste and consumption and thereby help strengthen the entire community.
Admittedly, price is the No.1 reason that I have chosen to shop kids’ clothes secondhand. I have no problems with clothing my toddler in used clothes if they are cute, in good condition, and they fit well. I don’t get upset when he spills juice on his new but used shirt. Plus, it is green and environmentally friendly. It is a win-win.
Shopping used is not the only way to cut cost on clothing expenditures. Another great place to look for heavily discounted kidswear is the clearance aisles in the kids’ clothing section at Target. Target’s store brand for kidswear, Cat & Jack, carries quality items at a decent price, with a 20% discount from time to time. Items labelled as clearance are furthered discounted, sometimes to as low as 30% of the original price. In my next article, I will discuss saving tips when shopping at Target. Please stay tuned.