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?