Many calculators suggest that new parents will spend approximately $60 per month on clothing in the first year of their little bambino’s life, that’s $720 in the first year, for clothing, no matter how cute, they will never be able to wear again. Expenses go down a little as the babies grow older, with an estimated $150 per season going towards clothing a two to four year old. I have to assume this $600 per year does not include the costs of replacing items like lost socks, mittens, or hats, which I can only assume spend months in another dimension, only to return when your child has outgrown them.
If it weren’t for the generosity of friends and family providing quality hand-me-downs, purchasing awesome shower gifts, and specifically asking me what the kids need (and not being afraid to be the aunt or uncle who bought four year olds a crap ton of socks for their birthdays) my children would be naked, or wearing cloth burlap sacks to school.
In all seriousness, we’re always looking for ways to extend the lives of the clothing our children wear, whether it’s making sure they can wear that favourite, although questionably tasteful, Dora the Explorer sweater a little longer, or getting an extra season out of a pair of leggings. Below are 10 ways to extend the lives of your children’s clothing, and save you some cash.
10 Blast Stains
Purchase some heavy duty stain removers to spray on stained clothes as they go into the laundry hamper. A little spray and wash applied quickly can remove any trace of that infant’s blow out diaper, toddler’s grass stained knees, or pre-schoolers paint covered shirt sleeves.
If you want to try a homemade stain removal solution consider soaking the stain riddled items in a solution of baking soda and water for several days, and concentrating your scrubbing efforts on stubborn spots with dish soap. Toothbrushes can make excellent tools to scrub clothing spots away.
Another note would be that pastel colored pants and shirts are a parent’s worst nightmare, particularly when the toddler is crawling or learning to eat independently. If you have spilly kids, darker shades of clothing will likely save you hours of soaking and scrubbing.
Kids destroy clothing; it’s kind of their job, so there’s no point in getting mad at them. There are a number of ways you can get around this to extend the amount of time they can continue wearing an item and not look like they’ve been rolling in a field of dirt for days or are an extra in the cast of Annie.
9 Sew Away
If you have basic sewing skills, with thread, and some needles you can easily replace lost or broken buttons, darn socks with holes, or fix torn seams without needing to use a sewing machine. If any of your children’s clothing comes with extra buttons, it’s a good idea to store them alongside your sewing kit, so you’ll have them available when you need them. Don’t have the right button? Consider looking at your local craft store for fun, cute buttons that can replace missing or broken ones.
For jammed zippers, you can use a graphite pencil tip, lip balm, or believe it or not, Windex to get the zipper moving again. If you need to replace the zipper many dry cleaners will easily do this repair for you at a nominal fee, or if you’re on a budget, keep an eye out for sales.
8 Patch It
Couldn’t remove the stain on the middle of that shirt no matter how much you scrubbed? Consider an iron on patch to cover up that spaghetti sauce. There are also iron on patches available for high risk areas for holes and tears in kid’s clothing including the elbows and knees. If you aren’t a fan of the generic shapes offered in elbow and knee patches, consider using a cookie cutter to trace and cut them into fun shapes like hearts, stars, flowers, or favourite animals before you iron them on. These look particularly cute on leggings, jeans and plain long sleeved tops. For even craftier folks, there are some creative ways to make a clothing hole into a cool look, you can make Monster Patches to turn knee holes into monster mouths or other cool creatures!
7 Purchase Items They Can Grow Into
Certain clothing items for kids can work with them while they grow and adapt to different seasons. A pair of leggings purchased in the fall or winter can easily become a pair of capris paired with a tank top or sundress in the spring and summer. Longer, board style shorts, particularly those with adjustable waists, or with the use of toddler belt clips, allow these items to be worn longer, and may work for two to three seasons. For little girls, some adjustable jumper style dresses can become cute tops for next season. Remember, if you purchase something way too big or way too long it can hinder play and cause safety issues such as catching on playground equipment or being a tripping hazard.
Keep in mind the ever-changing width of your child as they often will literally change shapes as they grow. What doesn’t fit this month might fit next, don’t be too quick on the trigger to get rid of old clothing. Consider keeping an “occasional” clothing drawer to store items that might fit again in a few weeks or months.
6 A Tip for Potty Training parents
Clothing, particularly bottoms, that no longer fit may do so once your little one is out of their diaper. If your child is potty training at the beginning or end of a particular season consider holding onto their clothes a little longer. A diaper takes up more room in a pair of pants than one might think.
5 Trade Them In
Just because you aren’t using the clothes any more doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t be happy to. Consider holding a clothing swap with friends who have kids of different ages, or trade them in at a used children’s clothing store for a credit towards more, appropriately sized clothing for your children. These stores will often give you a greater value for store credit when compared with trading the clothes in for cash.
To host your own clothing swap have 10-15 friends and acquaintances each bring at least 10-20 items of freshly laundered kid’s clothing that is in good condition. Next, have some volunteers sort the clothing assorting to size, gender (if applicable), type of clothing (outerwear, swimwear, pyjamas etc.), then begin the swapping. Set no limit on what people can take, just remember the important clothing swap credo, “Bring what you have, and take what you love”. Whenever the trade is complete, usually in under an hour, take all of the leftover goods and donate them to a worthy cause, like a local Big Brothers/Big Sisters chapter, or women’s shelter.
4 Turn Them Into Doll Clothes
Here’s a little secret, infant clothing makes awesome doll clothes. Growing up many of my Cabbage Patch Kids and “babies” were dressed to the nines in beautiful hand knit baby sweaters, smocked dresses, and bonnets that I had long outgrown, and all of the toys at Nana and Poppa’s still enjoy these meaningful clothes and baby blankets that were made for me and my siblings when we were little. This is a wonderful way for your children, and perhaps eventually grandchildren, to hold onto a little piece of the days when they were really little.
3 Make a Quilt
Some parents get creative and take their favourite baby clothes to make a quilt to commemorate baby’s first year. A few years ago I had a quilt made out of my husband’s old concert shirts and he loves it. Turning these shirts into a quilt commemorated special moments, and became a useful item in our guest room instead of taking up highly coveted closet space. There’s no reason why a quilt can’t be made out of your favourite baby clothes.
2 Repurpose Them
Maybe you’re feeling sentimental about the baby clothes and want to keep them forever to remind you of a time when your littles cooed in your arms and cuddled you close. Here’s the thing, it’s just stuff, and beyond an item or two that might be passed down among family members, or have a super significant meaning (like the outfit they wore home from the hospital) you’ll probably barely think of it again, unless it’s right in front of your face, or taking up an entire crawl space.
If you’re more like me and many other parents you’ll soon realize that kids have a lot of stuff and storage space is in high demand. An extra three Tupperware containers filled to the brim with gently worn sleepers is probably doing nothing but taking up space that you could use.
Be sure that you take photos of your baby in all of your favourite items and save that one or two of the most meaningful outfits, but at the end of the day the photos will likely mean more to you than the giant bin of clothing anyway. Others can repurpose clothing into dress-up clothes, a flag banner, cloth lunch snack bags, accessories or cloth patches for fixing other items.
1 Just Save for the Next Kid
Sometimes it’s just easier to save and store the clothes, particularly if you plan on having more kids. There’s no reason why you can’t save these clothes for your next baby. Keep in mind that not all items will fit both children and likely not all clothes will magically align to fit at the right season, but you’ll likely still end up saving some significant coin.
Just remember to store the clean washed clothes in clearly labelled containers and mark on your calendar the appropriate times to check in on the sibling and other hand me downs. There is nothing more frustrating than discovering a bin of size appropriate clothing when you’ve just dropped a cool hundred on spring clothes in the same size or, even worse, they’ve outgrown them all together.