Try this on for size: The average full-term newborn weighs about 7.5 pounds, and the average 24-month-old weighs somewhere near 30 pounds. Kids quadruple their weight in the first two years of life. In an average pregnancy, women go up 2-4 band sizes and 2-4 cup sizes. With that kind of growth, clothes shopping for both mother and baby can be a challenge. Few articles of baby clothing are worn very much, and some never even get pulled out of the closet. Savvy shoppers know that quality and versatility are much more important than quantity. It turns out that this shopping method also keeps the budget nicely in check. Outfitting expectant mothers and later, your child, with cheap finds can be an easy way to save money. By utilizing the resources around you, you will discover that cheap doesn’t have to mean shabby.
First Stop: Thrift Store
The first step to cutting the costs of both maternity and baby wear is to scour your local thrift and consignment stores. For mother and child, look for outfits that have strong seams with no fraying or separation. Check to make sure all zippers and snaps work. Buttons can easily be replaced if the rest of the item is in good quality. Buy shirts and pants in colors that complement many others so they can be worn often. Black or brown pants and blue jeans are versatile must-haves. For expectant mothers, try to purchase tops and dresses in an A-Line cut for a style that is not only flattering, but complementary to the expanding belly, allowing you to fit into your clothes longer than other styles. Another way to make the most out of your closet during your pregnancy is by purchasing some long, solid colored camisoles in a few sizes up. Wear your tank top underneath your favorite tops that no longer fit your expanding belly for a layered look. For kids, don’t underestimate the value of elastic. Pants with elastic in the waist can last for months after non-elastic pants are too tight, saving you even more money. When shopping at a thrift store make sure the elastic is still in good condition and stretches easily. If you have a toddler who could fit in a larger size without the outfit being too baggy, opt up. He or she won’t know the difference, and you’ll get more months of wear before having to shop again.
Fill Up Your Virtual Shopping Cart
Thrift stores and consignment shops aren’t the only places for deals. If you do not have the time or resources to make it to physical stores, turn your efforts to online shopping. Becoming increasingly popular is the practice of Internet clothes swapping or, “gleaning”. Users can sign up – often for free – and swap, trade, buy, or sell their gently used clothes, baby gear, décor, and equipment with others. Sites such as Swap Mamas , Baby Swap or Shop , and Swap.com are tailored specifically towards expectant mothers, infants, toddlers, and children. Each of these sites allow mothers to sign up for free and access hundreds of gently used clothes and products swapped or sold by other mothers from around the country. Mothers can fill up their virtual shopping carts with loads of maternity and infant wear for nothing, often paying only the cost of shipping. These sites are also great platforms for which to post your own clothes or products you are not in need of to trade or sell. Like clearance racks in stores, these online sites are great places to snag winter coats and clothing during off seasons for cheap as families partake in Spring-cleaning their closets. Buy a few sizes up and come wintertime, your little one will be prepared to face the cold.
Swap and Sell
Another resource to use to swap or trade maternity and infant clothing is Facebook groups. On Facebook, simply search for groups in your local area using a combination of key words such as sell, trade, maternity, infant, toddler, “mommy swap”, “swap and sell”, “baby swap”, “yard sale”, and so on. Often you can find Facebook groups or pages located in your area where mothers post items to swap or sell at very low prices. If you do not have a Facebook account, the online site Meetup.com, allows users to search for groups in their surrounding area to join. Searching for parenting/family groups or clothing swap parties going on near you can be a fun way to meet other parents and form friendships with individuals you can relate to. By doing so, you not only get to know your community, but you also can build a group with which to swap clothes and baby gear. Anne Morse, a mom in Maryland, says she and several of her friends had babies close in age, so they exchanged baby clothes, shoes, blankets, and more. “We saved each other a lot of money, and our babies had huge wardrobes!” she said.
Dressing Your Growing Belly
With a multitude of online resources, dressing baby can seem like a breeze. But what about dressing a pregnant belly? Expectant mothers often face the challenge of finding clothing for their ever-changing bodies that are appropriate for the workplace. As stated earlier, stocking up on basic pieces in complementary colors that can be mixed and matched is an easy way to cut expenses. Consider purchasing a few “investment pieces” such as blazers, statement necklaces, and dresses for special events such as business trips or interviews. Though you may have to spend a little more than usual, these items can easily be found alongside those secondhand baby clothes you found online or in consignment shops. Have an important occasion? Pay a visit to your mall’s department stores for a makeover. Most makeup counters such as MAC, Sephora, and Macy’s will do your entire face, but some counters expect you to purchase a product. Consultants will often tell you up front if there is a minimum product purchase before you commit to a makeover. A less expensive salon alternative is local cosmetology schools, which offer many salon services for a fraction of the cost. If you are comfortable with taking a little risk and having a student work on you, you can save a lot of money on a nice haircut or makeup application. And don’t worry; teachers supervise students when they work on customers.
No Need To Sacrifice Style
Whether you are clothing your expanding pregnant belly or your newborn child, finding cheap but stylish clothing can be both easy and fun. There is no need to sacrifice quality when shopping for yourself or your little one. By knowing where to look, what to buy, and how to make the most bang for your buck, you can cut the expenses of clothing while still maintaining your style.
Original article by Bonnie Bailey in the 2009/10 issue of The American Feminist, “Raising Kids on a Shoestring” published by Feminists for Life of America.
Revised by Lauren Sumners
Coats for Kids, www.coats-for-kids.org
Baby Buggy, www.babybuggy.org
Baby Swap or Shop, http://babyswaporshop.com
Baby 2 Baby, www.baby2baby.org
Reuse It Network, www.reuseitnetwork.com
Room to Grow, www.roomtogrow.org
Swap Mamas, http://www.swapmamas.com/welcome/
What You Can Do
- Give back. As you score cheap maternity and baby clothing finds on these sites and in stores, don’t forget to give back by donating the clothes and equipment you or baby have grown out of. It is easy to donate or sell your gently used items online or in stores. Popular locations to donate to include Goodwill, org, Baby2Baby.org, Roomtogrow.org, Coats-for-kids.org, local thrift stores, and local pregnancy resource centers.
- Host a swap party. Get rid of your old clothes by hosting a swapping party. Invite your friends, neighbors, family, and colleagues to bring as many clothing items or baby gear as they wish to swap.
- Sell your items. Online sites that allow users to post items to be sold, such as Ebay or com, are outlets through which you can sell clothes you or your child no longer wear and get some cash for the next shopping trip.