Monday, January 7, 2013

Should I buy new, used or sew to save money on kids clothing?

With this new year brings even newer taxes! YUK = need a "dislike" button on facebook..haha.   Anyhow, our family is a one income family for the most part and it makes it more challenging now that I know our healthcare as well as taxes will take out a significant part of our paycheck.  (I get to see "how much" this friday. fun, fun)   As I go through and re-adjust the budget, some of the categories like entertainment and clothing costs get hit the most.  So I thought I would do a posting about saving money on kids clothing and weighing in on the question: "Should I buy new or used clothing or is it best to sew what I need?

Buying New Clothing

Oldest daughter in Gymboree Horse top with Grandma's handmade cowgirl vest
 and Mamma's handmade twirly skirt.

For me as a seamstress, it is hard for me to brake down and buy new clothing especially when it is not on sale.  For one I don't have the money to buy an $80 dress for my five year old or even a $40 pair of shoes.   My kids (hopefully like everyones) also grow out of clothing so fast that it is hard to justify spending a lot on newer clothing.  So here are my "rules" on buying new:

- buy it only if it's on sale AND my child is in a growth spurt to where I couldn't possibly sew THAT much.
- buy things that I cannot sew - tights/hosery, shoes, underware, socks and sweaters for example.
- buy it if I really need it and cannot sew it in time - backpacks, winter coats, last minute special occasion outfit.

I usually shop stores and malls when they have their best sales - more than 50% off, coupon time or bonus shopping bucks to come back and get great deals again.  I browse sales ads before hand and find exactly what I need.   Most of the browsing I do is window shopping...I will look for needs but also look to see what I can duplicate by sewing it and saving money.  I rarely buy online or catalog.  I like to see and feel the quality of the garmet before purchasing.  There are some name brands I trust quality, but others it is hard to say if the garmet will look like the picture online.  I do window shop Zillily and Totsy sites but still haven't seen a clothing deal I HAD to buy at that price.

Buying Used Clothing

Two sayings come to mind "Buy used and pocket the difference" and "Recycle/Reduce/Reuse".   Buying used has it's ups and downs.   I sometimes buy used for a project to re-use it as something else.  This is mainly to save cost because let's face it, when Joann Fabrics has knits for $12.99 a yard and you don't have a coupon. Spending that amount is more than a child's t-shirt at full price!  So sometimes in order to find a color match, I go find a "newer" looking unstained t-shirt to cut down to my child's size.  Even $4 at Goodwill is better than the fabric at full price and sometimes sale price!  

I do re-use some of my clothes, my husbands and "hand-me-downs" also to make garmets.  It is easy to cut down t-shirts and even men's dress shirts to make a skirt, a dress or another shirt.  There are several tutorials online showing how to re-use garmets or "upcycle" hand-me downs for another use.  Here are a few of my favorites:

- Using a men's dress shirt into a girls dress here
- This tutuorial here a great way to use up a few t-shirts or cotton skirts by making each tier a different fabric.

I have bought other things at consignment sales and thrift stores such as sweaters, hoodies, and general clothing to help fill their closets with a wide variety.  Sometimes it's nice to find a sweater dress (for example) and then make leggings to go underneath or a pair of jeans with embroidery on the legs which I will match up with a t-shirt.   This method does help the budget but most of the time I try to sew what they need.  Which brings me to my next and last opinion.

Sewing To Save on Clothing

"When to sew and when not to sew?" is the question.   I will say there are some expensive fabrics out there.  Nice name brands like Moda, Amy Butler and Robert Kaufmann (just to name a few) also have a price tag.  In my neck of the woods the prices start at $9.99 a yard to $16.99 a yard for these types of materials.  Yes, there are places online, and I have bought some after going to my local quilt shop to look at the actual print.  But still after shipping it is hard not to spend a lot of money buying fabric.  

So what do I do to make the price cheaper? Here is a listing of tips.

I mix (oops..dirty word..haha) fabrics.  I will buy one or two pieces of the expensive and then match with cheaper materials like solids or fat quarters.   I know they are not all matched for you and so this presents a challenge.  Usually though, I am able to find what I need and the match ups are sometimes better than the original material collection.  

I find "used" fabrics at thrift stores, yard name it, I'm on it.  I sometimes find fabric that is perfect and sometimes I buy "lots" where only a few pieces are what I really want to use.   I have found Moda, Robert Kaufmann, and other name brands at these places.  I probably pay half or more off the original retail price.  This helps my budget and helps someone get rid of Grandma's fabric stash after she can no longer use it.  

I also play the sales game at fabric stores and walmart centers.  I gather coupons, do ad compares and try my best not to pay full price for anything.   

I will say that for my family, it saves me more right now to sew for my daughters.  I do from time to time, sew for myself, but lately that is not often because everytime I turn around, we are going through another growth spurt.  

So here is what I do each season to help with cost and fill the closets for the girls.   

- Take inventory of what they have and what fits.  Go through hand-me-downs and look over to ensure there are no stains, rips, or tears.   

- Repair (if possible) or alter some things to make them more useful.  My youngest isn't quite as tall as her sister, so I end up heming pants and dresses.

- Make a list of what is needed for the season.  Skirts, Dresses, Pants, Jackets, etc.  

- Divide and conquer.  Is there something you can sew easily such as leggings or skirts to boost their wardrobe?  Or does something take you a lot longer where you would feel more comfortable buying it to give time to sew the rest?  Answer these questions and make a plan.   

- Plan what you sew!  Give yourself time, ask family members to help with watching kids and schedule some sewing sessions.  Also look ahead at seasons and ahead!!

- Do some activities while kids are awake.  I usually cut out outfits during the day as the kids play.  This doesn't take long and I can watch kids while I cut.   

- Do somethings during nap time or early bed time.  For me this means a "quiet" activity so I don't wake little ones.  I usually iron, pin or gather during this time.   I will sew a few seams from time to time, but since my machine is near the crib, I cannot sew a lot when she sleeps.

Wrap Up

 In review, it helps to understand where your sewing helps and hurts your clothing budget.  I think most of us are trying to save and make do with our current resources.  I encourage everyone to sew as much and as often as you can.   Review your stash, make changes and plan your sewing schedule.  Find out what you know you need and see if your budget allows sewing, buying new or buying used.  

Anyhow, I hope this blog has helped someone become more organized about their sewing.  I hope to follow up with some great projects this year and a monthly theme.  So please visit frequently...and always come back Sew Hungry for More. conclusion, I have a question for you....
What do you do to help with your clothing budget??  What do you decide to sew and not to sew??