Some people get their thrills from dropping a couple of hundred dollar bills on a designer handbag – me, I get mine from saving hundreds on kids’ clothing. I feel like I’ve cheated the system and got away with it.

Quick disclaimer here: if you’re affluent in the sense that you can buy whatever you like for your children without a worry, this blog post is not for you. 

A quick rundown on the system

There’s basically two ends of the buying new clothes for your children spectrum. First, there’s the cheapies – I’m talking the $2-$5 bargain basement prices you’ll find at Kmart, Best & Less and even Target nowadays. Then there’s the higher end Myers and David Jones with most items costing a minimum of $20-30 and of course the handmade market. Most other kids clothing stores fall somewhere in-between.

Here’s the problem with the basement end. The clothes just don’t last. By the second wash, the neck collar is stretching, the bottom edge is warping, and by the fourth wash, it may even have holes. Thus, you can’t donate it, and if it doesn’t make it to the rag bin, it ends its life in the trash bin. Not a savvy economical or environmental choice, regardless of the popular comment (which irks me) that it’s so cheap, it doesn’t matter if it lasts (stick with me and you’ll see why).

The problem with the high end is the cost. The little buggers grow so darn fast, you won’t get your money out of the clothing.

Here’s how I cheat the system

I avoid buying ridiculously cheap new kids’ clothing that won’t last. Period. I instead spend the same amount of money (and often less) on lightly worn second hand clothes. This also applies to footwear.

The benefits:

I score designer goods such as once-worn kids Converses for $2! I find beautiful handmade clothing, embroidered dresses, and so forth.

Just check out my weekend score below! Quality padded kids footwear, those Connies, a handmade Christmas dress and numerous in-brand-new-condition licensed tees.

For the $38 I spent, I calculated the total value of the kids’ clothing and shoes was approximately $630! Most items looked brand new, and perhaps only two had signs of wear such as light stains or the decal had started to lift. Yet, if my kid had worn even one of these items for just one day, I guarantee they’d come off worse. Mr. 1’s clothes are magnets to mess.

How did I do it:

Looking for bargains may take a little bit of time, but I guarantee it takes less than dragging the kids around the shopping centre whining behind you. Not to mention the stress saved, and the thrill of scoring a bargain awaiting you.

I use a combination of Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. (Ebay in my opinion is no good. By the time you pay for postage the bargain has diminished. Op shops are great, but time consuming, and often more expensive than other means). So, I use Gumtree and Facebook, sticking to local areas to reap the rewards. Some search terms I use are “girls clothes”, “girls clothing”, “girls size 4”, “girls shoes” and so forth. There are no hard and fast rules and sometimes you have to try different combinations.

Ideally what you are looking for is clothing in bulk. You’ll be amazed at the amount of people just wanting to get their excess kids’ clothing out of their house, and so they bundle it together, slap on a remarkably undervalued price and wish it on its merry way. You can easily haul a whole new season worth of clothes or a year or more supply of shoes this way.

Things to look out for:

Avoid posts where the clothing is piled haphazardly, only one photograph is taken, and minimal description is given. This seller clearly hasn’t gone into any effort to represent the items for sale. Often this is a sign the same lack of care has gone into caring for the clothes.

Look at the elastic on jeans, skirts etc. If it’s too far stretched, the clothes are unwearable. Perhaps you’re okay with repairing it, but chances are the elastic costs more than the item, and you’re better off looking for immediately wearable clothes instead.

Don’t be put off by one or two items that may have stains. These make excellent painting / daycare clothes.

The style. If you see a piece of clothing you’d buy for your own child, you may be on to a parent who has the same taste. If instead all you see is hot pink and leopard spots (personally not my thing) just scroll past.

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t find anything. The point is to be on the lookout for bargains should they become available. Sometimes it may take weeks before you find a bulk clothing lot in great condition. And chances are, it will be available as surprisingly, not many people seem to shop this way and so the clothing patiently waits for a buyer.

Working with the system

Bargains aside, I’m not condemning new kids’ clothing. In fact, I love the people who dish out on it so I can reap the bargains later. What bargain shopping does do for me however is free up money to buy those few really nice pieces without the guilt.

Buying new the smart way

If you can, you should never buy new kid’ clothing full price (handmade items are the exception to this). You simply needn’t have to. My particular favourite is Myer specials. They often have 40-50% off sales which make the high-end clothing quite affordable and it’s a great way to pick up some beautiful dresses or embroidered tops. These clothes will last the entire season, and still be in excellent condition to pass on to another child.

My other favourite is Target and their little yellow stickers. Target is always discounting clothes for clearance as their seasons rotate so fast. Better still, the clearance sections are clearly signed so you can beeline over there. I love to buy in advance for my children for the next year’s seasons – this way I score great quality threads at heavily discounted prices. For example, brand new embroidered jeans for $5 and a cute knitted koala sweater with sequins for $12.

Lastly, Best & Less can never sell all of their trackie dacks come Spring, and they’re also great for marked down pre-walker shoes and socks. I also find their kids’ shirts to be thicker, softer and last much longer than similar priced goods from Kmart. This doesn’t apply to all their goods so it pays to feel the quality of the cotton.

Paying the deed forward

Personally, I don’t have the patience to photograph my kids’ clothing into bundles and wait for a buyer. I’ve been there done that and it’s just not my thing. So our used clothing is donated to charity shops. However, there are also local shelters you can take them too (you have to ring to organise this as the locations of the shelters are confidential).

Or just give them to a family member or friend. In the end, it’s about respecting the work, money and most importantly – the Earth’s resources that have gone into an item of clothing. Look after them, help them last longer and pass the savings on.

P.S. if you live in South East Queensland, Lifeline has annual mega clothing sales when literally a whole warehouse is covered in used clothing for $2 a piece! Personally I’ve scored brand new Forever New and Pumpkin Patch clothing. You can find out about future events through their Facebook page.


Until the next time, happy thrifting!