Free is Always Best-I am all about hand-me-downs. It is kind of easy when you have three daughters. One girl outgrows something and as long as it still looks decent it gets passed down to the next girl in line. I actually have a bin in each child's closet for clothes they will be growing into, so when one daughter outgrows something I just put it in the bin for the next girl down. For years I even saved boy clothes, but after seven years of not having another boy I just sold everything off in a mega consignment sale. I figured if I do every end up with another son he probably doesn't want ten year old plus clothes, but with the girls this system works great. I also am lucky to receive the occasional hand me down from friends. I have a few girlfriends who are moms who have daughters just slightly older then mine and they will often ask me if I want to go through stuff they are going to get rid of. My answer...always yes! My sister also has daughters that fall in between mine and we trade clothes back and forth. The downside, kids aren't always going to match up exactly on sizes to seasons, especially when they are young. Clothes can get warn out so do yourself a favor and chuck the bad stuff. Nothing worse then opening up your bin and realizing you have a ton of stained up Tee shirts. The upside...FREE!
Second Hand-There are four ways I've bought clothes for my kids second hand. My favorite is garage sales. You can get some seriously cute stuff for some seriously small money. The best way to go is to look for sales that are selling what you want. Craigslist and your local online newspaper are your friends. Look under garage sales and scoop out sales that are close to you and selling what you want. I love the site Yard Sale Treasure Map. It tells you what sales are in your local area, plots them on a map and even tells you what is advertised at the sale. Make a note of the date, time, and address. Take cash and show up ready to deal. Know what you are looking for, types of clothes, sizes, how much you need to buy, and how much you are willing to pay. Make sure to look the items over carefully. Nothing worse than getting home and realizing there is a rip or stain you didn't see before you purchased. If you feel the price is to high ask if they are willing to go lower, even give them the price you are willing to pay at. The worst that can happen is they could say no. More often than not, especially if you are buying a lot of items they will be willing to deal. For years all Gigi wore were Gap pants and this is where I got them. I'd hit the sales, look around and never pay more than $1 a pair. So worth it. The upside-you can get great stuff at a great price, especially if you are willing to bargain. The downside-garage sales can be time consuming and you don't always know you are going to find what you need. Mainly they are seasonal, peak time being the summer. Now that I have four kids and a hubby who works every weekend they are not ideal. Taking kids with you can be a major pain...they slow you down :) Also as kids get older they are harder on their kids so you aren't going to find as much of the bigger sizes...especially for boys 4-8. What is the deal with their pants, man the just really run those knees down!
Thrift Stores- So my mom is a thrifter but for the most part I haven't been that in to it because most of the stores I'd been to (Goodwill I'm speaking specifically about you) really didn't have that much stuff at them and were seriously overpriced, but recently thanks to a friend I found one I really like. Sure you still have to search through the stuff but every week they put a new tag color on 75% off, another color 50% off, and a third 25%. A few weeks ago when I was putting Dr. J's shirts away I noticed one was getting a hole by the collar. This happens all time time. He has to wear a dress shirt almost everyday and at six days a week of work, well they take a beating. So this time I went and checked out my favorite thrift store, and for seven dollars I got him six great looking dress shirts and a striped polo. I mainly just check out the clearance stuff but a few weeks ago I found a pair of brown boots for Gigi that she loves...ones she's going to have to wear until she gets the pair I bought her for her birthday off e-bay. Downside-a lot of digging. Upside-cheap if you find the right place.
Ebay- The thing I love about e-bay is sometimes you need something specific and e-bay is a great place to find it. When I needed a pair of super tiny ballet and tap shoes for Cheetah e-bay is where I got them for a great price. Recently I wanted a pair of really nice leather boots for Gigi. She had a pair of boots two winters ago that she loved and wore like everyday. They were made out of knock off swede and after a winter they were in shreds. She'd loved them so much that last winter we bought her another pair and once again by the end of winter they were done. This year I decided the girl deserved a pair of leather boots that would hold up better to the winter worth of wearing she was going to give them. So I went searching on e-bay. With her size and what I wanted plugged in I found the perfect pair of leather gap boots. They were on a buy now option and I got them for $14. I can not wait to give them to her. I know she will love them so much I'm saving them for her birthday. Downside-Cost might be a little more, especially since you'll have to figure in shipping. Can't try anything on or see it in real life before you buy. Upside-You can shop from the comfort of your own home and search for very specific items and they get delivered right to your front door.
Retail- So I definitely believe the motto that you should never pay full price and there are some stores that make this easy for you. Some of my favorites...
Kohl's-If you have a credit card with them they will send you monthly coupons. The best ones are for 30% off when you use your kohl's card. I love to combine them with their sales. The best sale comes at the end seasons. Kohl's will eventually knock the prices down by 90%. Combine that with a 30% off coupon and Kohl's cash and you are in serious business. The upside-new is fun. The downside-the closer you get to 90% off the more cleared out the selection gets.
Target-So I have to admit I'm in this store probably more then I should be. They have some really cute stuff for kids and often have stuff on clearance. I usually like to pick it up around 50% before the selection gets to cleared out. I've gotten some really cute skinny jeans for my daughters here, and all of Captain E's shorts from last summer came from the 70% off rack, plus if you use a Target card you can get an extra 5% off. If you aren't a fan of credit cards you can actually attach your Target card to your debit card. All you need is a check to do it. The upside-tons of cute stuff. The downside-you can spend way too much money here, quickly!
Gap/Old Navy-This stores belong to the same parent company. You can get a credit card with them to earn gap money back on money you spend and cash off. They often have sales. They often have coupons. I've signed up to their online mailing list and get coupons from them probably at least twice a month. The best coupons are usually for 30% off. Combine that with sales, and cash back and you are in business. I love Old Navy around the Holidays. They always do costumes 30% off a few weeks after the release them and they are some of the cutest better quality ones you can find. They also do really cute holiday gear which they also mark down 30% off a few weeks after it comes out. If you like doing matching dresses for Holiday this is a great way to go. Check out their outlet stores for even better deals. The upside-Cute, cute! The downside-prices are going to be a little higher. Also you need to pay attention to when the deals are and when the coupons are e-mailed out.
The Children's Place-This is one of my favorite new retail places to shop for my kids. About twice a year they do a monster sale when the season is over and put things at deep discounts. I like to drive out to the outlet store because the discounts are even deeper. I combine that with coupons I get in my e-mail by signing up on their site, as well as a 5% off I get for using their credit card. Using this strategy I've been able to walk away with bags of clothes at great prices. This is my favorite place to buy jeans for my kids now that they are older. When school starts I wait for the jean sale and combine that with a coupon that always seems to come out around the same time, along with my 5% off from my card. At around 8 dollars a pair I buy each child (the two older ones since they don't have any hand me downs) 5-7 pairs and call it good for the winter. The upside-great prices. The downside-the best prices are on stuff at the end of the season. I buy ahead and keep it in the bins, but sometimes the sizing might not work out quit right the next year, and of course you have to store it.