The average American family spent $1,846 on apparel and services in 2015 (according to this). I was pleasantly surprised that we came in well under this in 2015 and 2016.
We spent exactly $527.02 on clothing and shoes in 2016. Not bad for a family of 4, including 2 adults, a 14 year old girl, and a 16 year old boy. But, I should mention a few things about us before you start think I’m some frugal genius (frugal weirdo, maybe, but no genius).
First, my kids are no longer growing. Neither one of them changed clothing or shoe sizes in 2016, meaning they could wear most of the same clothes and shoes as they did in 2015. For comparison, we spent $908.12 on clothing in 2015. When you have kids changing sizes every 3 months, it’s harder to keep this spending down.
Second, my kids get a few clothing items for their birthdays and Christmas. They don’t get much, but each of them receives a couple of t-shirts or sweatshirts. My daughter also received gift cards to her favorite store and bought a few t-shirts with them.
Third, we are all most comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans. If it fits well, is comfortable and presentable, it works! And, thankfully, my teenagers don’t care too much about clothing brands (though my son is partial to Nike shoes). I think this is the main reason we don’t spend much on clothing.
Fourth, none of us have a closet full of clothes, though this didn’t used to be the case. In the past, our closets were full to the brim, until I did a massive declutter a few years ago. I narrowed my closet down to what I liked and what I wore on a regular basis. I helped my kids do the same. (Alan does have more clothes, as he has work clothes too).
Though we don’t buy too many clothes, I still try to save money on clothes we do buy.
How we save money on clothes
I am fortunate to have a fantastic consignment store in my little town – full of clean, mostly fashionable clothing, organized by size and sections (juniors, misses, girls, etc.). The owner runs tag sales each month, with one color being $1, one at 75% off and one at 50% off.
I save a ton of money here by consigning the clothes we no longer wear and only shopping the sales. I receive 50% profit from my consigned items. When I combine my earnings with the sales, most of the time, I leave the store spending $0. So. much. fun!
Thrift Store and Garage Sales
If we are in need of certain items and I can’t find them at the consignment store, I shop the thrift stores. They’re more disorganized than my favorite consignment store, but I have found some great deals when I do some hunting. I’ve found 3 pair of designer jeans for less than $10 each (and one had a $20 bill in the pocket!). And, though I don’t always find what I need at the thrift store, it’s always fun to search.
Since garage sales are seasonal and have a limited variety, I don’t frequent them as much as I did when the kids were young. That said, I do think garage sales are the absolute best way to find awesome children’s clothing for cheap. From the time they were babies, all the way up to about 10-12 years old, I bought 90% of my kids’ clothes from garage/yard sales. Kids grow so fast and you can pick up great, nearly new items at these sales for a fraction of retail price.
Amazon and Target
If I need something and I can’t find it at the consignment or thrift store, I buy from Target or Amazon. I can get jeans for $20 or less at Target, and sweatpants, t shirts and hoodies for $10-20 each on Amazon. I buy multiples when I find a good deal in the right size. For example, my son likes a certain brand of jeans from Target, so I bought 3 pair in different colors (for less than $60 total).
Limited budget for kids
My 16 year old son likes to buy Nike shoes from the outlet store and my daughter has a thing for all things Hot Topic. When we do spend money in these stores, I set a limit on how much I will spend. For example, I’ll allow my daughter to spend $30 on shirts at Hot Topic. If she goes over the limit, she is responsible for the difference. She likes to get the most she can for the money, so she takes her time and shops the sales (and rarely goes over budget).
Limit Time to Shop
As I’ve mentioned before, shopping isn’t my thing. I don’t spend much time shopping for clothes (which is probably one of the reasons I don’t spend much). I would guesstimate I spend around an hour a month shopping for shoes/clothes (though this month it’s $0 and 0 time!).
This hasn’t always been the case. Though I’ve never been a mall shopper, I used to spend a few hours on Saturday mornings going to garage sales or thrift stores. I still love scoring a great item at a great price. But I realized I was spending to save and bringing items into the house that we didn’t need (and would ultimately end up donated to the thrift store a short time later).
More recently, I stay out of the stores as much as possible and am more intentional about purchases. I always ask myself if it’s really something I need and will use. I ask, “Will it add value or gather dust?” and “How long before this item gets donated back to the thrift store?”.