From the Archives: Secondhand Shopping and Shopping Cheaply

Young children go through a lot of clothes and gear. That could get expensive, so secondhand shopping and shopping the sales are attractive options. Here’s what The Moms have had to say on the matter over the years.

How to Afford Twins: Cutting Disposable Diaper Costs

As I was searching How Do You Do It?’s archive of posts on diapers, I realized we had more posts about cloth diapering than we did on disposable diapers.  This is a problem since I know most people use disposable diapers.  So, how do you afford twins when you are constantly throwing money away in the trash?

*Disclosure: Some of ldskatelyn’s affiliate and referral links are used in this post.*cutting disposable diaper costsHere are some ways of cutting disposable diaper costs:

Know Your Cost Per Diaper

The best advice I have for cutting disposable diaper costs is finding out how much the diapers cost per diaper.  That way you can do some quick calculations to see if a sale is a great deal or not, or if coupons or other discounts will make it one.  So, no matter what brand you buy (as the price points are higher for brands like Pampers than for Luvs), know what is a good price per diaper for a particular size.

Buy in Bulk!

There may be certain sales and occasions where buying jumbo packs of diapers may mean getting a great cost per diaper deal, but it is rare.  When buying diapers, buy the big boxes!  The bigger the better.

Buy Generic

While buying generic will not work for all babies due to leakage and possible rashes, it works for many as a great way to save money on diapers!  Just about every major store, including warehouse, dollar stores and drug stores, have generic brand diapers -

Hit up the Sales!

Now that I only have one child in diapers (my newborn), I am simply waiting for the great sales to come along to snatch up diapers.  Target will often times have a deal where if you buy two boxes of diapers, you will get a $5, $10, or $15 Target Gift Card back, depending on which brand you buy.  When that sale occurs, we snatch up a few boxes, use some coupons on top of the sale, and save a lot.  So, wherever you like to shop, wait for their baby/diaper sales, and stock up.  It will save you some big bucks!

Use Coupons

If you aren’t buying generic, then chances are good that there are coupons out there for your brand of choice.  Check out coupons.com for diaper coupons, and P&G coupons.  Newspapers will have them, as well as many other sites.  You can even ask friends or relatives to save diaper coupons they come across for you.

Buy online

There is a growing number of websites out there that will sell diapers to you from the comfort of your home, often delivering at the same time each month.  This means no midnight runs to the store for more diapers, saving you that gas money in the process and perhaps your sanity.

  • Amazon Mom – You can get a FREE 3-month trial of Amazon MomAmazon Mom with subscribe and save (scheduled deliveries), will save you 20% on diapers, give you free 2-day shipping, and save you 20% on other family essentials (like toilet paper).  However, after the 3 month trail, you will need to sign up for Amazon Prime ($79/yr) to continue receiving these big discounts, but you will receive other perks with Prime.  If not, you can continue to receive a discount on diapering supplies, but only with subscribe and save (I believe).  Another great benefit of Amazon?  You can clip ecoupons to be applied to your purchases of diapers and save even more.
  • Diapers.com.  Diapers.com offers some great benefits for first time users, and also offer ecoupons on their diapers.  Also, if you use my refer-a-friend code: LDSK6709 you can save 20% on your purchases at diaper.com and its partner sites (soap.com among others). Plus, if you were to Join Upromise, a third party site, and shop through their links, you could earn 5% cash back on your purchases, saving even more on disposable diapers!  Diapers.com also makes regular scheduled deliveries.

Potty Train Earlier

If you really want to save money on diapers, just potty train your kids sooner!  Of course this is easier said than done (seriously!), but the sooner your child no longer requires disposable diapers, the sooner you don’t have that expense anymore.

Skip the Training Pants

While not everyone may agree with this, skipping out on buying Huggies Pull-Ups, Pampers Easy Ups, or other generic brand training pants, will save you money.  These items are much more expensive per diaper than a diaper are, and in my opinion, can make potty training harder and longer (thus costing you more).  So, do yourself a favor, and save the money on training pants, and spend it on some underwear.

Craigslist

I know craigslist is the king of used items, but know I’m not advocating getting used diapers, but snatching up people’s half-used packages of disposable diapers!  Sometimes people buy too many of one size of diapers and their child outgrows it before they can finish off a package, or their child gets potty trained, or a brand of diapers doesn’t work well on their kid. Whatever the reason, it means, that sometimes, people will either give diapers away (for free!) or ask a small fee for these diapers.  I have never done this, but it can be a great way to score some free or very cheap diapers! Another place to look? Freecycle.org.

What tricks and tips do you have for cutting disposable diaper costs?

ldskatelyn is the mastermind behind this week’s theme week of saving money, trying to help others learn how to afford twins.  She loves saving money and making ends meet and is so excited that she is sharing some of her knowledge with others this week!  She blogs about her family and parenting over at What’s up Fagans?

Kids in the Kitchen

Every time that I start to stress about J and M’s eating habits, I remind myself of our parenting goal: Healthy, happy, whole adults.

Of course I want our children to have a healthy diet in the here and now, but it’s far more important to me that they be equipped to make good food choices even when I’m not around. I’ve taken three basic approaches that have worked for us:

  1. Educating our daughters on what makes up a balanced diet, and how different foods contribute to their healthy growth.
  2. Including them in food purchase and preparation decisions and activities.
  3. Demonstrating that listening to their bodies is valuable and taking a non-combative approach to food.

I keep meaning to copy a friend’s brilliant idea of displaying the USDA food guidelines—the old pyramid, or the new plate—on the refrigerator.

ChooseMyPlate.gov image of a healthy food breakdown.

Even though we don’t have the picture up, we have always talked about meals in terms of needing a protein, a fruit or veggie, and a starch. We’ve also talked about the need for dairy, but since the girls drink milk morning and night, I haven’t required that they include dairy in every meal. I try to keep my explanations of why food choices are important accurate, but simple. We need protein for strong muscles. Fruits and vegetables help our bodies fight germs, and help us with healthy skin, hair, eyes and nails. We need carbohydrates from energy. Milk products help our bones be strong. Our body needs some fat so that it can get all the goodness out of other foods, but too much can be unhealthy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sweet or fatty foods, but they are just for flavour, rather than nutrition. I’ve rarely turned down the girls’ requests for sweets, because they ask for very reasonable portions: a cookie or a single piece of chocolate.

Our whole family enjoys food: eating it, preparing and cooking it, even playing with it. If only mine wasn’t the Great Black Thumb, we might enjoy growing it. The kitchen is the heart of our home; I’m old-school like that. It should come as no surprise that our daughters have always been welcome in the kitchen.

My husband may have shortened my life by a year or two by placing our infants in their bouncy seats on the kitchen counter while he cooked. In retrospect, though, I’m glad we’ve always had them with us. Once they could sit, I’d pull the girls’ highchairs into the kitchen, and give them each a plastic bowl and spoon to bang while I made our meals. When I had cleanup time on my hands, they would help me stir. If I needed to get my hands dirty, J and M could splash their hands in the bubble-filled kitchen sink.

As they approached age 2.5, M and J could be trusted not to put everything in their mouths, so their kitchen repertoire broadened significantly. They could help me measure out ingredients, even plan meals. I’d let them choose between fish and chicken, for example, or rice and couscous. Another great option was chef’s salad. I’d chop up lunchmeat and cheese, boil some eggs, grill some croutons, and present a selection of vegetables. As long as they included some of each food group, they were good. It’s easy to do the same with sandwiches, too. We baked cookies and muffins, too, but that was more of a game.

Now, at 5, J and M often help me plan our weekly grocery list. M recently observed that lasagne is a balanced meal in itself. J refused dessert at lunch yesterday because she was full. She knew there would be another ice cream opportunity soon enough. The girls came home from daycare recently telling me that they had been given soda at school. (Let me tell you that we’re not going back to that center.) They were as horrified as I was, but confessed that the cola was “sweet and yummy.” I told them that soda was a sweet treat, and they could have some when I did, a couple of times a month. There was no argument.

When the girls are full, we let them leave the table. If they’re not hungry, they don’t have to eat. They know that they won’t get anything until the next snack or meal. My husband and I both fight the urge to nag at them to eat more or clear their plates. I think it’s a natural parental impulse. We just have to keep reminding ourself that we want our daughters to stay as healthy, happy and whole as they are now.

How do you include your children in the kitchen?

The New-to-Us Shopping Method

It’s that time of year again! The seasons are changing and spring/summer clothes will soon be put away with fall/winter clothes taking their place (or vice versa for those in the southern hemisphere). Outfitting two (or more) kids can be costly. Here are the methods I use to keep my kids looking good without breaking the bank.

I accept any and all hand-me-downs. We’ve been fortunate to have several family members and neighbors offer us hand-me-down clothing from time to time. Some batches are better than others, but it’s always fun to go through the bags and see which items still have some wear left in them for my kids. Now, while I do accept all hand me downs, I don’t necessarily keep them all. I toss aside the ones with large stains or rips and anything that I just don’t want to see my child wearing (we are all entitled to have our own tastes). Often, the clothes we receive are a size or two ahead of what my kids are currently wearing, so like Leslie H., I have an attic filled with bins of clothing sorted by size (currently 3T to size 6). With everything organized in bins, it’s really easy to find what I need when my kids are ready to move into the next size up.

Hand-me-down shirt with $1 pants purchased from another twin mom.

I shop for clothes at yard sales. Yard sale shopping is part of our Saturday morning routine from mid-May through early September. Most clothing at yard sales (at least in our area) are super cheap. I recently bought brand name t-shirts and pants, still in great shape, for a quarter a piece! At that price, I’m willing to pick up anything we might need in my kids’ current size or larger. This is, by far, the cheapest way to add to my kids’ wardrobes.

I shop from other mothers of multiples. Many mothers of multiples clubs have tags sales in the fall and/or spring. Prices vary, but often clothing is priced $1-$5. These MoM sales are great places to shop for quality second-use clothing, but I’ve taken it even one step further. After realizing that I bought most of my clothing from just two sellers, I contacted the sellers and asked if I could shop their clothing before the sale. Both readily agreed and it became a win-win situation for all of us- they have less to tag and cart to the sales, and I have smaller piles to look through.

Pink Carter's coat and navy Tommy Hilfiger coat for $3 each purchased at a MoM sale.

$1 spiderman shirt and $1 shorts purchased from another twin mom.

$2 outfit purchased from another twin mom.

I shop at resale shops. The prices at resale shops tend to be higher than what you’d find at a yard sale or MOM tag sale, but they’re still considerably cheaper than buying new from retail stores. I only shop at the ones that are choosy about their merchandise- the ones that sell name brand clothes and check thoroughly for rips and stains. The best is when our local resale shop has their buy a bag sale. For $5/bag, I can take away as many pieces of clothing as I can stuff into the bag(s). I have gotten some incredible deals shopping this way, and I always shop one to two sizes up at these sales.

Hand me down shirt with $3 Old Navy jeans from a resale shop.

I do buy new from time to time, but when I do, it’s usually from end of season clearance racks or in stores where I can combine a great sale with an additional 25-30% off coupon. Of course, if my kids really need a particular piece of clothing and I can’t find it through any of the above options, I’m not above paying full retail prices. But my kids don’t know the difference. They love getting new clothes whether they’re brand new or just new to us.

Making a List and Checking It Twice

It may be a bit early for holiday shopping (perhaps), but right now (at least in our neck of the woods) it’s twin sale time again! I’ve only shopped the sales in our area, and they’ve all been huge events where you can find fantastic deals on used clothing, toys, books, games/puzzles, baby gear, and more. I always shop the fall and spring sales before even stepping foot inside a traditional children’s clothing store.

However, shopping these sales can sometimes feel like I’m running with the brides-to-be in Filene’s Basement. There are often tons and tons of shoppers and sometimes babies and kids in strollers, making it even harder to move around. I won’t lie. I was completely unprepared and overwhelmed when I shopped my first twin sale almost three years ago. I’m not a big shopper to begin with, and almost had an anxiety attack trying to manage the huge stacks of clothing. I don’t think I even made it over to they toys and books. And it wasn’t much easier when I went back for my second sale in the spring.

But by my third sale (the following fall), I realized that I needed more of a game plan to successfully shop during twin sale season. And now, as I approach my sixth sale, I feel that I really have a system that works for me. Here is what my game plan involves:

Make a list: For some reason, the sales are just much easier for me to navigate if I have a list of what I need. It keeps me focused and motivated to find the things we really need. It also keeps me from bringing home things we don’t need.

Find a seller: I was lucky enough to find someone who has boy/girl twins who are roughly a size ahead of mine (even though they’re a month younger than mine!). She lets me shop her items before she tags them, and it’s a win-win for both of us. I don’t have to hunt through huge stacks to look for what I need, and she gets to spend less time tagging her items.

Work the sale and pre-shop: This will be my third sale as a seller. It’s quite a lot of work getting all of my items organized and tagged, and being a seller means I have to work set-up on Friday night AND all day Saturday until the entire venue has been cleared out. But it also means that I get to pre-shop both Friday night AND Saturday morning. The amount of items to look through is still overwhelming, but at least I’m doing it with a relatively few number of other shoppers.

So how about you? Do you shop your local mother of multiples sale? What tips do you have for finding just what you need when shopping large tag sales?

Gambling Again

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?

A word about baby clothes

As anyone with a new baby can attest, people love buying baby clothes.  The new grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even just random family friends can barely resist.  They come to visit with a little box in hand, from Macy’s, Target, BabyGap, or wherever. Thoughtful, sweet, generous. And when it comes to clothes, who can blame them for the impulse buy?  Somehow, a t-shirt is just plain cuter when it’s that small.  And when it’s a gift for twins?  Oh. My. God.  Smaller may be cuter, but nothing beats a matched set.  We all have our collections of matching outfits in the dresser, and whether or not you’re into dressing your kids alike on a regular basis, sometimes you just can’t help it.  (Hopefully they’ll forgive thank us later.)

But I have learned several important lessons about baby clothes, and in particular baby clothes as gifts, from my experience over the last 8+ months as a mother of two (very differently-sized) babies. (Forgive me if this all sounds ungrateful. I have actually taken it all as lessons for myself as to how to buy for other babies.)  So, courtesy of Daniel & Rebecca, here is what I have learned about how to buy gifts for other babies:

First, whenever possible, find out what sizes the babies in question are actually wearing.  I don’t expect people to automatically know that, at nearly nine months old, my daughter still wears size 3-6 months. My son, on the other hand, seems to be the rare child who actually wears his actual age range (at exactly 6 months, he switched to the 6-9 month clothing, etc.).  Obviously, people who don’t get my kids dressed every day would not know this, but there are easy ways to find out. Grandparents make good spies.

Second, look at the size of the outfit you just chose before you buy it.  I know that, if you haven’t spent a lot of time with baby clothes recently, they all just look small and cute.  Impossibly small, in fact, so you get the bigger size, because no real baby could possibly wear the 3-month size.  I can’t tell you how many people have lovingly presented us with gifts and, while looking at my kids, exclaim that they should have gotten the bigger size.  But I assure you, my kids have not outgrown the size 18-month shirts at age 6 months.  Really.

Third, now that you’ve learned what size they wear and have actually inspected the labels while in the store, don’t buy too far ahead.  If you want to buy for the next season or two, if you want to buy a size up from what they wear now, that makes good sense.  Buy summer clothes in early spring, in the next size.  Great.  But did you really have to buy the size 2T fleece jackets for my 4-month-olds? (I can’t make this stuff up, people.)  I mean, yes, the jackets are adorable.  I can see how you were drawn to them. Especially the fluorescent pink animal print.  But I have no idea when my kids will wear size 2T, and whether or not that will even be at a time of year when fleece is appropriate outerwear.  Plus, I have to store it somewhere for the next 1-3 years.

Fourth, think for just one moment about the practicality of the outfit in question. I’m not saying all baby clothes have to be practical.  Dresses on baby girls are super cute, even if they make no practical sense at all.  But really… baby cashmere?  Just because they make it doesn’t mean you should spend your money on it.  Take the $60 you were going to spend on that sweater (that my child will wear once, vomit all over, and outgrow), and buy three outfits from Old Navy. You can splurge from time to time, after all, that’s what gifts are for. But be reasonable.

Lastly, and I think this is a good rule for any gifts, please please please include the gift receipt.  We love that you were thoughtful and generous and got us an adorable outfit from BabyGap.  The trouble is that both Aunt Sally and Aunt Kathy walked past BabyGap during the same week, and they both fell in love with the monkey shirt (it’s just so perfect for little Jimmy!).  And while the shirt is, in fact, perfect for little Jimmy, he doesn’t need two.  Plus, I’d rather exchange that 12-month sized sleeveless outfit for something my daughter can actually fit into this summer, instead of wistfully staring at it all season long, until she can finally wear it. In November.

I know, I know.  People are just being sweet and thoughtful and generous.  And I love that someone was thinking of my kids and wanted to get them something nice.  I also know that I’m preaching to the choir, here. But after getting two sets of very strangely-sized off-season outfits this weekend (blessedly inclusive of gift receipts), I felt compelled to put my lessons into words.