growing like weeds

Kids grow so fast! And there are two main things they quickly outgrow that make an impact on the pocketbook: Diapers and Clothes. Recently I've made some discoveries and changes that have helped regarding how I approach each.


discovery: One of the most helpful pieces of information I've learned lately is that if your baby outgrows a diaper size and you still have unopened packages in that size left, while you could potentially save them for a shower gift or make a fabulous diaper cake, you can also take them back to the store and easily exchange them for the next size up! In preparation for baby's arrival, I had already begun a little diaper stockpile any time I saw a great deal on them, so when she came we were ready! Then I got several packages of diapers as shower gifts, and then again as Christmas gifts, so there were some sizes that she outgrew before breaking into a new pack.
I did a little market research and tried making the exchange at Walmart, Walgreens, and HyVee. WalMart was the easy-peasy exchange! You can even exchange for a cheaper brand and get the difference back in cash! After NB/sz1 I don't really care for Pampers, so I was happy to trade them for the cheaper brand that I prefer anyway. The only thing they don't do is take back brands that they don't stock in the first place. For example, I had received several packages of Luvs that I never was able to use, and they didn't carry this particular type, so I had to hunt down the store that did (HyVee). HyVee let me make an equal exchange (I didn't try going for a different brand, so I'm not sure how they feel about that). Walgreens has the same policy.
Because these were gifts I didn't have a receipt, which made me doubtful of whether or not each store would take them, since who knows where the gift-giver actually bought them in the first place (unless, it's a particular kind of Luvs, then apparently only HyVee carries them). But each time I simply explained the situation to Customer Service, asked if I could make a trade, and walked out with the size I needed. Happy!

Sometimes Walgreens has a BOGO sale on their store brand diapers, which is a beautiful thing. It is also a dangerous thing because those packages can go fast. A friend of mine told me that if the size she needs is sold out, she will just buy any other size and then return it later for the correct one once they get them back in. Typically I don't think of returning diapers. It just goes to show that there are ways to save and still get what you need!

(I want to acknowledge up front that this is a very Western mindset, where we have so much available to us, but that's our hemisphere; it's what we know...)

There's no getting around it: babies need a lot of outfits. Between the drool, wet-thrus, spit-ups, and blow-outs, they go through multiple clothing changes a day. As far as I'm concerned, nothing beats garage-sale baby clothes, where you can afford to buy a bunch at 25-75 cents a piece! I've also really appreciated the end of season clearance sales, which allow me to buy ahead at sometimes up to 65% off clearance prices. Old Navy is especially fantastic for this! As a new mom, when I first started doing this I asked several mom's how they approached gauging their childrens growth & needs for the next season, and the common advice was to buy pants in the age that they will be at that time, and tops in the next size up. That worked pretty well for us!

reasons I love it:
1)you can find some seriously cute and fine quality stuff out there for supercheap!

2) when your baby has a blow-out that even OxyClean can't conquer, that ruined article of clothing isn't as sad. Or if you daughter has a growth spurt and that dress is suddenly just too short, it doesn't hurt the wallet as much.

* The danger of these sales is that I think, "oh, it's so cheap! I should buy 2 or 3 instead of just 1" when 1 might be all I really need or ever gets worn.

* I'm tempted to buy something that I don't totally love, but is just ok, because it's so inexpensive.

* Garage sale items are a gamble. I bought a bunch of 4T shirts for her at a garage sale for 25cents a piece, and happily tucked them away for the future. Well, I pulled them out with the 3T items, and half of them never even fit her. The tag said 4T, but they had been washed enough times that they were easily in the 2-3T range. The nice thing is that I can put them in the 2T bin for Baby to grow into.

* buying ahead gets confusing, especially when buying for multiple kids.

After learning from experience, anytime I bought ahead for the next size up, I would write down on a notecard what I had purchased and just keep a running tab that I would take with me when garage and clearance saleing. This helped me keep from forgetfully buying multiples of the same thing and also allowed me to try to keep things coordinated. Even though the pants, top, and sweater, for example, might have come from three different places, I could still make up one cohesive outfit with them.

recent discoveries/changes that have made me realize that I want change:
1) Once babies get to about 1YO, they no longer need so many wardrobe changes. It's hard to get out of this mindset, especially when purchasing ahead because your baby is right there in front of you, drooling all over herself. But they stop doing those things and don't really need as much.
2) My 4YO son especially has gotten very particular about what he wears, so even if I only spent $1.50 on a shirt last season with plans that he will wear it this season, it's a $1.50 "wasted" because he doesn't like it, and it's too late to return it to the store.
3)Along those same lines, he and my daughter have their favorite items. Sometimes I wonder why I even have more than one shirt, because it seems like that's the only shirt he ever wants to wear.
4) I, too, have my favorite outfits for them, and I would rather they wear those than some other things, so between my favorite and theirs, the rest just becomes closet clutter that I'm constantly sifting thru until I find the favorites.
5) the more kids I have, the more space becomes a premium, and the less I want to have bins of clothing stashed for them, waiting for them to grow into.
6) My 2YO daughter has the longest legs in the world and zero hips. Again, jeans and khakis and dresses that I bought cheaply are still a "waste" of money because they don't fit right. She has already outgrown most of the 3T dresses that I had purchased ahead for her. Thankfully she got some wear out of them, but not as much as I expected or would have liked.

note: You'll notice I put waste in parenthesis. Nothing ever need be wasted. Repurpose these items as gifts, save them for the next child in line, lend/give them to your friend with similar-aged kids, donate them, or sell them. Clothing items new with tags (NWT) can sell very well online and at consignment sales. I keep the tags on the clothes until I'm absolutely sure the kids will wear them, and only cut them before that first wash. Thankfully, I've been able to even make money off some of the NWT items that I've consigned because we didn't end up using them like I expected.

useless but relevant aside: I don't know if you are like me, but for some reason I am willing to spend more at a consignment sale than a garage sale. I get really annoyed when garage sales have their kids clothes priced anywhere above $2, doesn't matter how great they are. I know it doesn't necessarily make sense, but I expect and want garage sale prices!

new game plan:

I've gone back and forth about whether you get more bang for your buck by selling clothes as soon as a child grows out of them, while they're relatively current and can get a slightly higher price, or saving them for the possibility of a next child. In the past I've kept most of the items, especially when I have nephews and friends who can borrow them in the meantime. But this year I decided I was going to only keep my very favorite and highly utilized pieces and sell the rest so that I could condense the storage area. I also decided that, although summer dresses are really cute on little girls, anything with spaghetti straps had to go (unless I could layer it with another shirt). Yes, she's only two, and she's only showing baby skin, but it's still skin, and it's the principle/ pattern of it all. Still hoping for some bang for that buck, I participated in my first Just Between Friends sale last weekend (yikes! what a ton of work) as well as consigned some items at a local shop (less work, but less $too). Next up is a garage sale, and whatever doesn't sell there gets donated. Like I said, nothing need be wasted. I had some items that I didn't think even Goodwill would want, but Jeni reminded me about the donation receptacles in pretty much every grocery parking lot. Maybe someone will appreciate some of these more "roughly worn items". If not, then they can toss them out, but at least they have the option, and I don't have them lying around anymore.

"Reduce, ReUse, Recycle" may be our generations motto, but my parents motto was: "Use it up; wear it out! Make do; Do without!" This January I decided that I am going to ride out what is left of the things that I've purchased ahead, and am not going to buy another stitch of kids clothing unless it's absolutely necessary (for instance, Daughter is going to need a new swimsuit for this summer. There is no creative way around that unless we never go to the public pool. and she LOVES the pool). Instead of trying to save money and being prepared by buying ahead, I'm going to use up what we already have. Then next year, when I have a clean slate, or closet if you will, I want to see if less is more, even if I have to pay full price for it (but I'm sure gonna try to get it on sale! ; )). I grew up in a family of five kids, and I remember very clearly having a uniform. I remember having two school-day outfits for each season, with some play clothes thrown in the mix, and one, maybe two, Sunday outfits for each season. Like I said, there were five kids, and we moved around a lot, so we didn't accumulate much. Sounds heavenly to me right now! This is my new plan for the kids as they get older, until they get old enough to be embarrassed by it, as I did, and try and block it from their memories.

Maybe someday they will turn into their mother too... =)

questions: What is your clothing philosophy? Do you have any hot tips?


  1. LOVED reading your tips and ideas! I go through this love/hate thing on stored clothing. Storing clothing has saved me SO much money that it is VERY worth it. I do have an attic so I have a good storage place, but it is a very small attic and it is getting full so I have learned to be more careful about what I store. After two boys and two girls, I'm getting a better idea of what to store and how much. Items that never fit well or no one liked are being passed on. I've also learned to hold onto many more pairs of pants than I'll ever think I need, since my boys destroy pants faster than I ever dreamed.

    I'm also careful to save enough. I'm finding that as I have more children, shopping and yard sales just take more effort. I would much rather "shop" in my attic than go out with four children. So when someone says "Do you want a box of clothes". I ALWAYS say "yes". Even if I sort through the box and don't keep everything, even a few items are worth it.

    Okay, this is too long winded!

  2. Great Post! I don't have many tips or tricks that you don't already know. My two girls share a dresser as do the boys, so if it doesn't fit it doesn't stay. I have gotten out of the habit of buying ahead and garage sales are great for babies, but aren't so great after size 5. The main thing I try to do is make do with what we already have. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!" is quoted here regularly! For the girls I turn dresses into skirts, multiple shirts in to dresses, too short tights into leggings and so on. For the boys, pants into shorts, t-shirts into long sleeve shirts. I also never turn down a free box of clothes.

    I think the biggest problem (if can even be considered a problem) is borrowing clothes. I have many wonderful friends who load me clothes, you included. My problem is coming up with a good system for storing those clothes as they grow out of them and getting them returned in an orderly fashion. I had a system that worked well when I only had one or two kids, but it's getting much more complicated with the 4 of them. I'm hoping to tackle this this week. We'll see how it goes!

  3. Great advice!! I am anxious to hit the garage sales this spring/summer and look for clothes for Lash. However, he is so hard to size...he's 18 mos old and still wearing 12 mos pants. Not sure what to do. He has 3 pairs of 18 mos pants that I don't think he will get to wear. Thanks for the great tips!