BY DODI KINGSFIELD, TECHNICAL SERVICES SUPERVISOR, FREELANCE WRITER & AUTHOR, FORESTVILLE
It’s the end of summer and the beginning of the school year, when the need to outfit your kids in clothes without permanent stains and patchwork is high and the budget can be tight. Buying school clothes for one child is difficult enough, but when shopping for an army of kids the task is downright daunting and depressing. More people are cutting back in today’s economy and for large families this is a necessity. By following one or more of these tips, you can save a few more dollars when outfitting an army of one or many.
Most people think of hand-me-down clothing as something unwanted, usually received from an older sibling or cousin that is out of date and two sizes too big. This is no longer the case. Kids grow quickly and many kids have more clothes than they know what to do with. These hand-me-downs may have been barely worn, are in great condition, and are given with the intention of a good deed done. Maybe you have clothes for a younger child you could trade or other goods to barter. Make the first offer with your hand-me-downs and see what gifts come back full circle.
Some call them yard sales; others know them as garage sales, attic and cellar days or rummage sales. Whatever your name for it, these home sales have great bargains. Shopping sales in upscale neighborhoods sometimes improves the chances of finding high quality clothing at lower prices if that is a goal. For the best bargains, show up as early as possible for the first day of the sale before the good stuff is sold. Another approach is to shop at the last hours of the sale when the homeowner just wants to get rid of everything. Prices drop drastically and they start selling bags and boxes of clothing for the price that a single item was the day before.
Second Hand Stores
Second hand stores are a great way to shop for used (and sometimes new) clothes of all kinds in one place. Goodwill, Salvation Army and Thrift Stores are examples of second-hand shops found in our area. These organizations sort, wash and display donated clothing in their stores for sale at costs for less than a couple dollars each. Find out from your local second-hand store when their weekly special is, for the best bargain shopping days. You could easily outfit one child for $5 or $10 on those kinds of days, depending on the store. Consignment shops are another type of second hand shop and are excellent choices when looking for prom dresses, suits and jackets or band concert attire.
Nothing beats those little red or yellow tags in the aisle that scream “sale” or “drastically reduced” at the bargain shopper. Whether you have a K-Mart, Wal-Mart or Target near you, they have everyday sales as well as low prices on good quality clothing that is in style. Buying clothes during the season guarantees you will pay the highest price for your goods, so check the sales regularly and buy for next season at the end of this season when possible.
On-line shopping for bargains is probably my favorite way to shop. Practically every store or retailer has a web-site with on-line shopping capabilities, which makes browsing and looking a breeze. Search for a “specials” or “on-line only” shopping tab for the best deals available. Depending on the store, you can find seasonal, monthly, weekly and even daily specials available. Others offer “seconds”, which are new items with minor defects sold at a fraction of the retail cost. Sign up for e-mail notifications if offered so you are instantly notified when they introduce new sales options. Many on-line stores have free shipping and handling days which adds on additional savings and avoid rush shipping when possible to keep the costs down low.
Department and Clothing Stores
Major department and clothing stores offer a variety of sales options to the bargain shopper. If a store is not nearby, online shopping is a great choice and you can monitor the specials at your closest location. Many sales are scheduled for holiday weekends or before and after school specials, when consumer shopping is at a peak. For sales rack specials, a trip to the store is required since the sales are location dependent and change daily. The online stores won’t normally reflect these bargains on the web-site. For ? off on the ? off sales, shop at the end of season when the store is trying to reduce their inventory and introduce the next season’s fashions.
The Grandma Factor
I am not condoning this as a primary method of outfitting an army, but if you are lucky enough to have a Grandma who likes to shop, work it out with her so the kids benefit the most. Grandmas that live far away and can’t visit often fall into this category. My mother-in-law is kind enough to visit us or have the kids visit her late in the summer before school starts and she takes them school shopping. I can’t begin to thank her enough for how much this has helped my husband and me, but it helps the kids out too with new sneakers, a couple outfits and if they are lucky, a matching backpack. They are happy, Grandma is happy, and I am relieved and thankful.
Whether looking for new or used clothing, it is a challenge to clothe a house with lots of people. Some days I feel like I do nothing but “process” clothes, but in the end, it’s all worth it. I give back to those who “gift” my family by passing on the good clothing to others. Badly stained items become rags for the garage or the shop, clothes the kids don’t wear are dropped off at the Salvation Army, seasonal items are rotated out regularly, and good clothes for school are stored in the attic so they don’t get ruined until then. No matter how large your family is, remember that fashionably outfitting your army is possible. Just make sure your teenager isn’t expecting Prada.
Dodi Kingsfield, Technical Services Supervisor, Freelance Writer and Author. Dodi is employed as a Technical Supervisor for a large food manufacturer in Dunkirk, writes childrens and young adult books and does freelance writing for the web and magazines. Married for more than 20 years and a full-time mother of five, Dodi enjoys yoga, organic gardening and telling tall tales. She can be reached through her e-mail address at email@example.com.