Gambling Again

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Our family is on a pretty tight budget. So, I try to maximize a good deal when I find one. While on bed rest during my third trimester, I read an article in a parenting magazine that recommended shopping clearance sales for good deals on children’s clothing. The article talked about how you could save a ton of money on brand name clothing by buying it at the end of the season for the following year. This sounded like a great plan to me. However, it didn’t mention that growth patterns in young children can be unpredictable, so this type of shopping is actually a little like gambling. You place your bet on the clothing size you think your children will be wearing about 10 months from the purchase date, and then hope and prey that your bet pays off big time down the road.

I know this shopping strategy works for some moms. I have mom friends who email me when they notice end of season clearance sales going on, and they tell me all about the great deals they got buying clothing for their own kids. But my kids are on the small side, and don’t seem to grow like weeds like everyone else’s kids. Although they were born at 38 weeks, both measuring 18.5 inches and weighing 5 pounds 15.6 ounces (Cool, huh? Especially since they’re not identical.), they’ve grown very, very slowly ever since. They wore newborn diapers and 0-3 months clothing for almost 6 months. Still, at the end of last summer when I started shopping from the clearance racks, I figured they’re bound to hit a growth spurt at some point. So I bought a nice stack of 12 month sized clothes for my son and my daughter, who would be 15 months at the start of the following summer. And when the end of winter clearance sales started this past spring, I bought cute fall/winter clothes sized 18 months for each.

Unfortunately, my gambling didn’t pay off the way I’d hoped. At their 12 month well visit in March, my son measured almost 28 inches long and weighed about 18.5 pounds, and my daughter measured 28 inches long and weighed about 15.5 pounds. At that point, they were both wearing 9 months and 6-12 months clothing, but most of their clothes were a bit big and I had to roll up the sleeves and roll down the waist lines. Three months later, when summer began and I pulled out all the cute clothes I had bought last summer, I was disappointed to find that about ½ of the items I’d purchased did not fit them yet. The t-shirts were okay- a bit big, but they would work- but the shorts were not even close- too big in the waist and too way too long for my son. The dresses for my daughter were a bit long too, but luckily still wearable. I kept the too big clothes in their closet, thinking that at some point over the summer, they’d begin to grow into them, but no such luck. At almost 18 months, my son is around 21 pounds and my daughter is just over 18 pounds, both with short little legs that have kept them in mostly 9 month sized clothes all summer long. And I’d bet the farm that by next summer, those 12 month clothes will be too small. Money down the drain? Perhaps. Although, I’m hoping to recoup my losses at the twin sale next spring by reselling these brand new items at the same price I paid (which shouldn’t be too hard since I paid only $2-4 dollars for each piece).

The good news is that those 6-12 month clothes that were too big last spring are finally starting to fit and should be perfect for this fall. Only time will tell if the money I put down on those 18 month fall/winter clothes will pay off big time. At the rate they seem to be growing, I predict they’ll be in some of those clothes by spring 2010 and maybe still in them at the beginning of fall 2010.

So, with a budget that’s oh so tight, and a gambling record like mine, is it worth it to try my hand at the end of summer clearance sales again? I hope so, because it’s already been done. This time, my money is down on spring/summer clothes mostly size 18 months. If I don’t win it big next summer, I may be out for good.

Do you like to gamble with end of season clearance sales? Have you mastered the art of hitting it big, or do you go bust with money down on bad bets? And what other secrets might you have about outfitting your kids without breaking the bank?

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22 thoughts on “Gambling Again”

  1. The growth pattern of young kids certainly is unpredictable! You are right about that!

    My kids were in the “grow like weeds catagory.” My son was born at 7.12 and by 4 months old was 17.12! His sister was born at 6.12 and at four months was 15.6. Now, they are 2 years and 3 months old, and Jonathan weighs just over 30lbs and Faith weighs about 28lbs. Both are on the shorter side.

    Now that they are slowing down in their growth, I feel comfortable buying some things to stock up…like 3T pants that I know they will be able to wear at some point during the year. Jackets are the same. Sundresses, swimsuits, shorts? They still make me nervous…who knows what their shape/size will be next summer?

    A really great thing for our family is the fact that their b-day is in May and they tend to get a lot of summery clothes and outdoor toys as gifts.

    I think when they are 3 it will be easier to plan ahead, as kids really only grow a few inches and add a pound or two then (I think.)

    Happy shopping!

  2. I am not a fan of buying clothes in advance of a season, it is just too unpredictable. I buy only what I need right at the time it fits them, for that season. We have a wealth of kids consignment stores around here and I very rarely buy new. (and I will ONLY buy elastic waist pants, I have learned the hard way as toddlers grow and lengthen out, and lose the baby chubbiness, most pants fall right down unless there’s elastic.)
    Most of my clothing purchases are at the big sale my multiples club hosts 2x per year. At this Fall sale I will grab some things that will fit them NOW and last through winter. At the spring sale I will buy summer things that fit them at that time, and will last through summer. this system has been working well – so far.

  3. Two words: consignment shops. I can count on one hand the number of items for our four boys that I have bought new, and these were with gift cards. Virtually every item of clothing we have for them (and for me!) is from our local consignment shops, and so I rarely spend more than about $2.00 for any item.

  4. We don’t buy at clearance sales either bc of the number of times we’ve been burned. My twins club has a huge sale twice a year and I only shop for what we need at the time. In between, I hit consignment stores and hand me downs from other people.

    It is pretty expensive to have two! At least my boys are the same exact size!
    .-= LauraC´s last blog ..Busy busy bee =-.

  5. I just bought a bunch of fall/winter clothing for my duo and wish I had gambled and bought some sale stuff at the end of last season. The only thing I wouldn’t do it for is summer clothes because summer is so short here in the Northeast so you really have to time it just right. Pants, long sleeve shirt and even jackets are wearbale for 8-9 montsh of the year so its much less risky to buy that stuff ahead of time.

    I can imagine that people in season-less places don’t have these issues!! DH’s family lives in El Salvador and they don’t seem to get the concept of buying clothes that are size AND season appropriate.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Holy Watermelon! =-.

  6. I only buy t-shirts that I can count on using as layers no matter what season they grow into them. My soon to be 4 year olds are 40 inches tall and only weigh 27 pounds. I have a hard time finding anything that fits them, let alone buying ahead of time trying to guess. Although, in the last 2 years they’ve settled into a pretty recognizable growth pattern. If it holds true again this year, I may start risking it again.
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..this here’s the Rubber Duck =-.

  7. I have to admit that I get a bit of a cheat. We live in South Florida. So our wardrobes consist of summer clothes plus a few outfits with long pants and a couple of sweatsuits per child for that 6-8 week period of so-called-winter when mornings can be 40-50 degrees (though even those days are usually mid-70s by 1 p.m.). That means I can be relatively confident buying ahead of time for almost everything they wear.

    That said, though, I have purchased very little clothing, even now as they’re just turning two. Hmm…one of the hidden benefits of trying to have a baby forever – most of my friends are already out of baby stage and are clearing out their baby clothing collections, netting me a TON of fantastic hand-me-downs!!

    And for those times where I have needed a few fill-in items, I’ve found a few websites where I can get a complete outfit for $10-12. Kidsurplus.com, Bunnycreek.com and Disneystore.com are probably my favorites along with Classiccloseouts (though their quality isn’t the best and warning – everything I’ve gotten from them so far has run REALLY small). And of course ebay.

  8. End of season sales actually work really well for us. Don’t be surprised if the 12 month clothes DO fit your kids next summer. This summer my daughter (almost 3) wore 3T, 2T, 18-24 month, and even a couple of 12-18 month clothes. So I just bought her a bunch of 3T for next summer, and my son 4T for next summer. If they don’t fit in some of those yet, they will the next summer. It all gets used at my house (plus my daughter wears some of my son’s handmedowns). And after 24 months, the clothes are sized by year, not months, anyway.

    I also love at the beginning of a season to buy a big lot of clothes on ebay in my kids’ current size. Then I have like 30 items I’m not super attached to and they can wear to daycare, playground, etc.

  9. Buying seasonal clothing isn’t as much of an issue here in Texas. Since it’s almost always hot, I end up spending only on cold-weather clothing that fits for the month or two that we need it. I get good tights and good jackets and do a ton of layering. My girls grow slowly enough that the clod weather clothes that were on big side their second winter still worked their third winter.

    The other cheap option is hand-me-downs. Ebay lots are a great solution to find coordinating and matching clothes. I search for “3T twin girls” or whatever size and can usually find something I can use soon, and they usually arrive within the week. I also use Freecycle to find second-hand clothes in excellent condition for the perfect price.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..I see! =-.

  10. I’ve lost that gamble, too. My kids are quite big (in the 95th%) and tall so I have just decided to do what some of the other moms suggest – hit consignment sales and mom-to-mom seasonal sales. Luckily my MOM group has a spring AND a fall sale, so I’m going to stock up there (and sell my own stuff.)

    I’ve found Carter’s and Old Navy both have good sales on upcoming seasonal stuff if you watch for them, and there are always coupons available that help you save additional $$$.

  11. What great feedback! I agree that buying used, and what you need at the moment, is probably a better way to go. I do shop at the fall and spring twin sales, but have had some hit or miss experiences there. At last year’s fall sale, I did very well, but this past spring, the sale was so chaotic with shoppers, and I had a really hard time finding what I was looking for. I just recently found a great children’s consignment store not too far from us, so I’ll probably shop there for fall/winter clothes to fill in the holes after I shop at the fall twin sale.

    And Nicole, good point about end of season fall/winter clothes being more useful for our area. I’m way less anxious about getting some use out of those size 18 month long sleeved shirts and pants than I am about the size 12 summer clothes. Guess I’d be better off passing up those end of summer sales no matter how good the deals look.

  12. I’ve had some luck shopping clearance, but I mainly buy shirts, jackets, pajamas, anything that can be worn a little big. As for pants, my daughters give me huge headaches in this category. They’re too tall for 2T and 3T and they’re waists are too small for 4T. If the pants don’t have an adjustable waist or belt loops I can’t buy them. My stepmom buys tons of clothes for my daughters at a consignment store.. that way if they never wear certain items no one is out too much money.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..The Surreal Life =-.

  13. I buy some stuff at the end of season clearance sales. They’re just too good to pass up! I try to concentrate my purchases at stores like the Gap where I can’t justify paying full price. But, my girls are tall and skinny, so predicting size can be tricky. I bought some 2T dresses for next summer, but some look a little wide so I’ve decided to hold off buying anything else until I know better what size they’ll wear.
    .-= Erin ´s last blog ..Good morning! =-.

  14. we’ve become so accustomed to purchasing at our MoM’s Buy-Sell that I even scoff at clearance prices at retail stores. We do, however, purchase something new when it is irresistibly cute.

    We’ve been fortunate in that our kids growth is pretty predictable with our son wearing a size up from his age, and our daughter being right on target. We’re not against rolling up sleeves or pants, either. To make things last, we typically find bottoms that are bigger than needed, but with adjustable waists.

    Finally, we are very fortunate in that my partner (she’s a golf pro) has many clients with younger kids. and they are more than happy to off their kids’ clothing onto us, more boys clothing than girls. As an example, we recently received THREE garbage bags full of clothing from a client who things “if the clothes aren’t nice enough to wear to the country club, then we’re not buying them”. As a result, mateo has Janie & Jack, Gymboree, Ralph Lauren and the like clothing to get him from the first of fall through late spring. Translation – we will not have to buy him A SINGLE PIECE OF CLOTHING FOR NINE MONTHS. How lucky is that?!

    Poor Harper, though. We’ll be stocking up at our October garage sale for her. :)
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..“Single-Parenting” Twins Requires A Solid Zone Defense =-.

  15. Hmmm, interesting! Haven’t run into this yet, since we live in the tropics and don’t really have seasons. Or any good stores for that matter, though we do have crazy people who try to observe our non-existent seasons. I remember seeing a woman in the OB’s office wearing fur lined boots when it was 88 degrees outside. I guess “technically” it was winter, but c’mon!

    Thank you for this post though, because if I ever escape this island, I will head straight for the end of season sales, no joke. I LIVE FOR sales, and am not afraid of gambling (gambling on greatly discounted clothing that is). Go big or go home, right?
    .-= Jungletwins´s last blog ..Parenting: Team Sport or Individual Pursuit? =-.

  16. This strategy is exactly how my girls ended up wearing the Christmas pajamas I bought last year on clearance in July. I’m not opposed to trying it again though, only I’m going to try the “You’ll always get to wear summer clothes in Texas at some point” strategy and buy the winter clothes as needed.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog .. =-.

  17. When my girls were younger (i.e. before they turned 2) they were pretty consistent with the sizing so I could confidently buy season clearance stuff. In fact, I made friends with the manager of Gymboree and would go in there at 10 AM the day their biannual red balloon sale started. She would bring out big cardboard boxes and let me sit on the floor in the back of the store so I could find two of everything in the same size – my girls STILL insist on dressing alike and throw fits if I try otherwise. But now that they are nearing 3 they have slowed down and are SO inconsistent with sizing that I stopped clearance shopping. I like higher end stuff – which I can’t afford – so I have been an ebay addict for a long time. I get REALLY cute stuff (if not matching then at least from the same line so it coordinates) and then I sell it back after the season is up!
    .-= Marnie´s last blog ..how on earth… =-.

  18. The majority of my kids’ clothing comes from garage sales where they are the cheapest, but that’s only because my mother invests the time to go out and find all the stuff. My oldest son is 3 and is also on the small side (27 lbs). The upside to being small like that is that although it’s a bit more unpredictable to know what size they’ll be in, they also stay in the same clothing for longer so over all you spend less money on clothing. That’s one way to look at it right? :)
    .-= Gliding through motherhood´s last blog ..Cutie in her Peekaboo Beans =-.

  19. Don’t give up on that summer clothing yet. My four year old daughter has worn the same summer clothes for two years now. Like one of the other moms said, at one point she could fit in stuff anywhere from 24 months to 4T. Summer clothes are a lot more forgiving.

    My pet peeve is how stores sell clothes a whole season early…making it extremely difficult to buy anything without taking a gamble. For instance, if you want something for Halloween you have to get it now (even if your child might change over the next two months). I made the mistake one year of waiting until early December to get a Christmas dress for my daughter. Apparently you have to shop for that in the early fall! There was nothing left.

  20. I go Salvation Army the whole way! Mine has a constant 25 cent sale on kids clothes, so I buy ANYTHING in their size or bigger that’s cute and in perfect condition and wash and stash away the bigger stuff. Other posters are right too, they stop growing so fast after about 2 yrs, and clothes fit a lot longer. I swear my girls are size 3T but still fit into some 18-24 month stuff.

  21. I always hit the outlets when they have the current season’s clothes on clearance — I don’t pay more than $2 for any article of clothing. The best part is that if you save your receipt, you can return……even if it’s next summer. I’m guessing this is just an “outlet thing”, but I had someone in Carter’s and Children’s Place tell me the same thing —- if I get to next summer and the clothes don’t fit — bring them back with my receipt and I can get my money back. Items on clearance….money back next season if they don’t fit — I’ll drive an hour for that!!
    .-= Andrea´s last blog ..New heights =-.

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